PoetryIssue 18 | June 2013

Cremation at Pushupatinath

by Bonnie Bishop

The sacred river is reduced to a trickle;
its banks are littered with plastic bags.
Behind the temple wall, drone of chanting.

Wrapped in a saffron shroud, a body lies
on a pyre; the oldest son, dressed in white,
carries a bowl of fire three times around it,

places an ember into his father’s mouth.
The attending harijan dips handfuls of hay
into the river, lays them on the body.

Flames rise.  Blue smoke billows. 
One man standing behind the pyre
crosses his arms over his chest,

another shifts his weight, lights a cigarette. 
When the fire is blazing, the son
breaks the skull with a bamboo stick

and the elements borrowed for this life
are restored to air, water, earth, fire, sky.
On the opposite bank, a wandering cow

creates a small disturbance, a boy kicks
a plastic bottle into the river while another
piles charcoal onto a two-wheeled cart.

About the author

Bonnie Bishop has lived in Italy and Greece and hitchhiked from Athens to Copenhagen. She has crossed Canada by train, marvelled at the terra cotta warriors in Xi’an, ridden an elephant in the jungle of Nepal and gazed at the Taj Mahal as the sun set and the full moon rose. Read her book, O Crocodile, (2013, Finishing Line Press).

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok