Billow & Flume

I often wonder what happened
to my mother’s molecules
after we dumped her ashes
into the Oceanside Harbor
and watched them billow
and flume like jellyfish
or atomic explosions
under water, a gorgeous
expansion of gray. Are
the molecules that were once
her eyes splitting the distance
between Hawaii and Japan?
Are bits of her clavicle in Baja,
atoms of her heart traveling
through the belly of a whale
near Antarctica, parts of her
big toe washing up on
the Australian shore? Did
shards of one hip bone tango
down to South America,
portions of the other shimmy
up to the Bering Strait?
Does a molecule from her
liver ever swim past a molecule
from her throat and think
yes, yes, I once knew you?

Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications), and the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement, Self Storage (Ballantine), Delta Girls (Ballantine), and My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers), which received a Silver Nautilus Book Award and was chosen as a state-wide read in Wisconsin. Gayle served as Inlandia Literary Laureate from 2012-2014. She teaches in the low residency MFA program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Sierra Nevada College.

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