Gold survives the fire that’s hot enough
to make you ashes in a standard urn
An envelope of coarse official buff
contains your wedding ring which wouldn’t burn.

Dad told me I’d to tell them at St James’s
that the ring should go in the incinerator.
That ‘eternity’ inscribed with both their names is
his surety that they’d be together, ‘later’.

I signed for the parcelled clothing as the son,
a cardy, apron, pants, bra, dress –

the clerk phoned down: 6-8-8-3-1
Has she still a ring on? (Slight pause) Yes!

It’s on my warm palm now, your burnished ring!

I feel your ashes, head, arms, breasts, womb, legs,
sift through its circle slowly, like that thing
you used to let me watch to time the eggs.

from Collected Poems (Viking, 2007), © Tony Harrison 2007, used by permission of the author.

Tony Harrison in the Poetry Store

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