Sky Funeral


In a revered Tibetan tradition
I read aloud to my father,
the dead are borne to mountains
and the bodies offered to vultures.


I show him the photographs
of a monk raising an axe,
a corpse chopped into pieces,
a skull crushed with a large rock.

As one we contemplate the birds,
the charnel ground, the bone dust
thick as smoke flying in the wind.
Our dark meditation comforts us.

I ask if he'd like me to carry him–
like a bundle of sticks on my back–
up a mountain road to a high meadow
and feed him to the vultures.

"Yes," he says, raising a crooked finger,
"and remember to wield the axe with love."


Richard Jones, Poetry International, San Diego State University Press, Issue 9, 2005.