A Death in the Family

a poem by Anupama Pyarelal

It occurred late at night.
By morning,
All had arrived.
They pursed up their lips,
Shook their heads,
After all,
He had been old,
So ancient.
There was the expected,
Hue and cry,
And then,
They took him away,
To the pyre.
He was lost,
Among the flames;
Reduced to a-
Smouldering heap of ashes,
Dutifully collected,
And immersed,
In the holy waters.
Hardly anyone remembers him,
He is dead and gone,
Presumably to heaven.
There was the customary ritual,
And they clapped their hands,
Crows flew away,
From the coconut trees around,
And paid no heed,
To the tasty morsels,
Set for them below.