The Burning


by Ryan-Ashley Anderson

How far out do you want to go?

     “The earth had forgotten her”, said Italo Calvino in the voice of Marco Polo, of the lost city, Zora….

Hanna…she let go of the earth, and, shortly after, the earth let go of her. While living, she burned on the inside, and so, as it should have been, they burned her when she died and tossed her out into the sky, turning away, unable to quite choke out “Goodbye”.

All that’s left was ashes spreading in the wind, all of us wondering if they would ever find a place to land, or if, like the person who inhabited the body they were born from, never landed, because nothing would suit her eternally. Rather, we imagined, they continued on their flight, carried by the winds of her final breaths, short as they may have been, to some place far, we would never know the name.

“Perhaps Atlantis,” the small child mused.

Perhaps the ashes landed on her mystic bow and decided to stay awhile, knowing that, in doing this, they could rest but keep on moving, transcending all laws of loss and gravity. They kept moving as the ship sailed on, behind people’s backs, with eyes closed, and under their noses, its passage only recognizable by a young traveler’s sure olfactory device, sniffing up what smelled like the pages of old books, embers, and the flowers that got  caught up in the woodpile, forced also into the burning.  He might then feel a breath rip at his cheek, produced by the passing of something invisible and great on its way out.

As his pace slowed to a stop, he resting only because the stick he held was strong, the breeze left him with the feeling that something was leaving; he was losing something that he didn’t know the name of, and that didn’t know his. He felt the loss all the same, eyes watering with the bite of the winds and memory of ashes as they sat, making their home on his lids. Atlantis lived in those eyes. The ashes mixed with the streams and began to produce in him the bittersweet feeling one gets when saying, “See you soon,” but truly meaning “Goodbye”.  The tears wouldn’t come because this is the life he chose, a life of but passing through,  not staying long, leaving soon, and, as his mother often said, “You reap what you sow, so be sure that you’re sure that you’re sure that you know…”

Like this lone man, searching for something he couldn’t put a finger on, name, or begin to explain, the ashes also sought something out.  They represented the parts of herself that had been forced together by a hurried maker who’d decided to cut the corners rather than finding the proper pieces to lock into one another.  Corners cut don’t lock, though. They rather settle, close to one another, sides not quite flush, attempting diligently not to be caught masquerading as a jigsaw, seams flawed and furious.  Her physical composition was nothing more than tectonic plates that, due to the bubbling and toiling underneath, rocked and gnashed at each other, ripping at seams as they hit, in the process, uncovering and melting all the slopped-on glued parts that were supposed to be holding everything in. It was as if the one who’d rushed her together like a last-minute heirloom quilt had forgotten to change the tension on his machine, leaving gaps in the loose, unreliable threads….