The Afterlife

  1. Replanted

 

Naked                                                                                                    shivering, powder snow

in Winter                                                                                               sleeping on my branches

Blooming                                                                                                           in pastel colours

in Spring                                                                                   this season, my petals are robbed

Clothed                                                                                      sweating in saps, children climb

in Summer                                                                                     on me, bugs crawl up my skin

Burning                                                                                          leaves I’ve worn since Easter

in Fall                                                                            abandon me, they like the ground better

In death, this became my life: an unbroken cycle of beginnings and ends, marked by hot summers and bitter winters. And I will die again.

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I’m watered, sometimes by rain and sometimes

by my great granddaughter.

In the California drought, clouds barely open up

they’re protective of water. Lily has to make

long walks from the front door

to her forest of ancestors to nurture us.

Planted in the dirt, I sprout.

I used to have milky skin

all the men wanted to touch.

Now, my skin sheds, rises and grows

into rough wild bark that will scratch your back

if you lean against me.

In Spring, my hair becomes flowers

blooming in lavender and rouge. Little girls pluck

the petals from me and crown themselves.

In Summer, my hair grows longer, stronger

into waxy green leaves.

In Fall, I lose it all. I become

nature’s cancer patient, bald by Winter,

every year fearing I’ll be chopped down:

cut for firewood

carved into ice lolly sticks

be printed with bad news

and then

burned alive, crumbling into powder grey ash

scooped up, spread, separated, sprinkled

over landfills.

 

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illustration by greg abbott

 

One day, I’ll be nothing. I’ll die again. Now, I stand in my roots, shivering, thinking of the best moments: when the schoolgirl skipped her classes to read romance novels in my groove; when my acorns fed the squirrels through the winter; when M+J carved their initials, hands shaking, into my flesh, before sharing their first kiss.

2. Reincarnated

You are old, decaying cell by cell                                                      as everyone dreams

Your children hold your hands                                                        with true love

You lose the feeling in your fingers                                               clinging on to any last piece

You take one final breath, s   l   o   w                                               until it’s gone

 

The minute you die, 21 grams leave your body: your soul parts ways with the home it has lived in soundly for the last 9 decades. Goodbye sweet friend, enjoy the cold ground.

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A foggy sphere of energy

flexible and shimmering, rises from the body.

The soul is young, only a few centuries.

It is still strong enough to stay together,

resist dispersing.

Between hospital walls, down dark corridors

people can mistake it for dust

or a faint reflection from a flickering light

or their own breath in the December cold.

It escapes the ward,

flies through the atmosphere of earth

out of control, travelling by the wind

living in a void

shades of inky midnight blacks.

Time ticks

tick-tock tick-tock.

It is blind, only subject

to the cold clap of air, the warm wrap of space.

 

It arrives at The Edge

misty with other souls

slipping and sliding past each other

in a fury of fog, fighting for the next round of bodies.

The soul is wrapped in a calloused hand.

It is thrown

spinning off into the nix

sucked into tornado currents

tumbling down

falling into the soul shaped place

inside a body

it’s comfortable, snug, tight

unfamiliar

its spheroid shape fits into the hole.

It’s sent through the passage of birth

hearts throb, blood warms it, a push releases you.

An electric spark of light blurs your vision.

You search for your voice to scream,

feel for breasts to feed on, a hand to hold you.

You feel concrete under your toes,

humidity on your shoulders

but those aren’t toes

and those aren’t shoulders.

You look behind you at your family,

you wonder what you did wrong?

This next life is spent on six legs as you dodge being stepped on, children trying to eat you, carrying dropped crumbs back into your sandy home, where no words are used to communicate, only crooked antennae and the spidery touch. Diagnosed with a short life of mess. The soul inside you bangs on its cage, screaming to escape, begging to die.

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3. Reborn

She stands at the doors.                                                                              Everything is golden.

The book didn’t describe it like this.                                                            She hears footsteps.

She’s not in clouds.                                                                                         This is a kingdom.

Grass springs between her toes.                                                               Denim skies overhead.

The handle turns.                                                                                              She is welcomed.

 

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by azot2017

 

Before death wrapped his hands around her throat, one skeletal finger at a time, Elizabeth spent her youthful days dancing, planting flowers and reading stories. Her one prayer was that she would get to do these things again.

 

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by Andreas Derebucha

 

When the door opens, an entire land grows before her eyes,

daisies sprout up from the lush green grass, apples

and red berries fall down from the branches, people

hang out of windows to wave, the soft ground

tickles the new skin on her feet, clouds

open up and drop a warm rainfall over the gardens.

Like a nomad, Elizabeth gathers flowers for her hair

dances barefoot through puddles with laughter

on her lips and euphoria in her eyes. ‘Come with me’.

The tone of the voice is like caramel, melting

on the tongue of a child for the first time. She follows,

finding the king with his mighty hand outstretched.

He has a sketch of the whole world drawn on his palm.

They wander through fields of yellow

enamoured by fresh scents:

exotic jasmine, pure white lilies

kisses of lemon oil, sprigs of soapy coriander.

As rain drops slip from the petals on her head, trickling

onto her shoulders, she sparkles.

The king brings her to an archway decorated with doves.

Close your eyes’.

With her lashes touching her cheeks,

he leads her into a room. Oak, leather, dust

meet her senses. It reminds her of summers

at Grandpa’s when bedtime stories were read all day

or nights in the bookshop, begging her father

for new novels.

She opens her eyes and sees a library

from floor to ceiling, window to wall.

In her new body and vanilla dress

she steps towards the books.

This should last an eternity,” says the king.

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In the kingdom, Elizabeth meets her grandmother who is young again. She used to tell stories of her days working in a children’s hospital. Now, she is surrounded by children: reading to them, singing to them, teaching rhymes. Elizabeth also meets the grumpy neighbour who now smiles and shines as he plays triumphant music in an orchestra as populated as a small town. She remembers thundering beats exploding from his garage when they lived in Fawn Court. She sees her friend from dance school leading a ballet class; a mentor from girl scouts teaching people how to light a fire; a woman from the pet shop feeding split peas and thistle seeds to a flock of sparrows.

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We are all home.

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