Ash, a poem written by Michael Ball at



written by: Michael Ball



I knew what to do when her ashes came.
My mother does not live on my key ring.
She does not live, except in artifacts —
in my mind, in photos, and one steel disk.

Hail, Mnemosyne, goddess of memory.
Gravid in its super-thick plastic sleeve.
Guide me to grub among ashes to find
the steel ID that survived the retort.

Now Wanda is often in my pocket.
Lighter and longer than she carried me.
The stamped steel circle reads VISTA VERDE.
The post-dead’s badge — 14510.

Muse, then rub the stamped crematory coin.
In its fine grooves, the gray specks bear witness
to scant remains from burnt body and bone.
Mother proved mortal, now become mortar.

When I unlock my back door, the coin falls
over both my head line and my heart line.
Wanda is not there, yet here she is felt.
How receptive we can be to our ghosts.

The ashes were not she, nor is the coin—
each the same as a locket’s wee photo.
We worship our beloved dead as we may
and such remnants can provide strange comfort.

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