On the shingle stands a gathering
wrapped against the chill faint breeze.
The recent rain has swelled the tide
to an almost blue: though not quite.
The iron-stone beck bottom still
taints the water's tone from sky;
and I break stride, upon the farthest side,
curious to watch the little crowd.
Reticent, with an urging air,
like teenage girls about to kiss,
or boys set upon some dare
they know will strip of innocence.
Each takes the earthen pot in turn,
in turn to take their last goodbye
around the congregated friends,
until back into its spousal hand.
They jointly say a private prayer
or perhaps some verse from the heart,
as the sun breaks weak from cloud
to light an elm in single shaft.
Then to the water's edge she goes
the last remains clutched to her breast
as if she holds a branding iron.
She goes alone
to the very edge, as to the sea.
Unscrew the cap
half-bent she kneels.
A thin stream blusters in its reverent pouring out,
as steadily as she turns her wrist
until, at last all is gone.
And I walk on.
And I walk on
turning back, only once, to see.