urnAshes 

by Marlin Jenkins

She thought about using a spoon, but only once, only after the first time. That first time she just removed the top and scooped up a pile of ash after waking one morning with it next to her. This green urn, heavier than she expected, like children they never had. She rubbed her fingers over it, closed her eyes, dipped her fingertips in, then ran them over her lips. The ashes’ prickle reminds her of his wet beard after he’d brushed his teeth, water dripping onto her instep. 

It’s an ordinary urn in most ways, except his name engraved in Farsi – their favorite language. She steps out of bed with it drawn into her chest, sets it on the kitchen table and that’s when she thinks about the spoon. 

She scoops up a handful of tiny grains, pours it onto her tongue, swallows. This escalates to at least twice a day – morning and after work. It becomes dinner. Bigger handfuls and she knows soon that she’s running low. 

She likes the knowledge of him as a part of her – her natural processes working him into her blood, all that’s left forced down to her center and then flowing through to her entirety. 

Her fingers become prune-y. Teeth marks just below the cuticles. Some days she pukes it back up and hates feeling that he is leaving, that she is purging herself of him. 

After a couple months the memories are graying. They play back to her in dreams without sound. This scoop, this one: his bent ring finger, broken from fighting his father; this lick, the mole on his inner thigh. 

She considers stopping when she thinks about the cancer. She hopes the cancer cells burned entirely and are not in this purified form of him. 

She also considers stopping when the supply gets particularly low. Considers other uses – to mix in with oatmeal, etc. Decides against it. Saves the last few scoops for a few days. Rubs her fingers on the inside edges like the sides of a bag of microwave popcorn. 

She speaks to the ashes more each day. Tells them about their nieces, nephews, little cousins, how they’re all growing up. She’s down to the bottom now, so she tilts it above her head, feels the last of it jam down her throat, a few particles floating up into her nostrils. 

Empty, she drops the urn and it cracks. Picks it back up, climbs onto the kitchen table, drops it again and it shatters. She runs her fingers over the shards, picks one up, licks, prepares to swallow.

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Marlin M. Jenkins grew up in Detroit, Michigan. If he could be any animal, it would probably be a mallard, but maybe an okapi.
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