I Tell My Mother What I Read About Sky Burial


Jill McDonough

When my mother tells me she wants her ashes scattered
in the water around Monhegan, I look at my sisters.

Didn’t she tell us she wants to be scattered
on the Red Ribbon Trail?
I ask them. They nod. Mom,

you can tell us whatever you want, but we’re not
doing any of it. I just read this book about Tibet.

We’re giving you a sky burial.
When she asks
What’s that? I tell her in Tibet they take the body,

dismember it, chuck the limbs in the air and birds
of prey come grab it bit by bit. It’s true. I make

the breaking sounds, pretend to twist her limbs off
at the hinges like I’m cracking open a chicken carcass,

chuck them in the air to birds. Pop, chuck. Pop, chuck.
I don’t like that, she says. What, this? I say, Pop, chuck?

That’s what they do in Tibet? she says. No wonder
the Chinese don’t like them. I’m glad they’re not free.