In the Book of Common Prayer funerals
When they commit the body to the earth they say:
Earth to earth
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust.
This is not the whole story.
Look how small a fraction of a human
Remains after cremation.
Yes, my bones are of the earth
But my flesh, my flesh is air:
The condensate of clouds
By the unburning of plants
All stitched up with nitrogen
That germs and now humans
Have learnt to hew from the sky,
And like air we mix:
Already the breath of this poem is in your lungs,
My oxygen, now carbon-coupled
Eats at your bones,
Which dissolve and rebuild in the calcium of your blood,
In this way, even your skeleton is liquid.
For life is fluid.
Evolution remembers you as a bubble of brine,
Sea-sludge, fringed with rock-phosphor,
Both soft cauldron and book-spine
For the fearful alchemy of your essence.
At newer funerals they read new liturgy:
How energy is indestructible
How we are all stardust.
This too is not the whole story.
Though surely all heavy elements must come from suns,
The iron in my veins is more than merely starburnt,
It is the ashest of ashes,
Ash of a Supernova, brilliant beyond all concept
Fire beyond fire that outshines whole galaxies.
And the hydrogen inside us
Is primal light congealed,
And if it did pass through stars
It did so unchanged.
Yet this is not all my story.
Your piss runs in my blood
My soot sparks inside your skull
And the intonation of your tongue colours my words
For our brains, like our flesh, are air.
Robin Lamboll researches climate change and human emissions, and writes on the intersection between the natural and the human. Robin has won Cambridge, UK and Madrid international poetry slam finals, and came second in the World Cup of Slam in 2019.