Molly Holden is one of my favourite poets of recent times. She suffered for many years from multiple sclerosis, and blends a sharp loving observation of the natural world with a kind of wry valour that perhaps finds its finest expression in this poem of wistful acceptance.
After The Requested Cremation
A steady north-north-west wind preferably
though an east wind would do as second best
and so my bones’ smoke and innocent ashes
would carry into Wessex or the west.
I’d like my dust to be deposited
in the dry ditches, among the fine grass of home,
on hills I’ve walked, in furrows I’ve watched making
in Wiltshire’s chalk-bright loam.
If not that then Wolverhampton’s chimneys
might send me Severnward: that would do instead.
Those rose-red farms, those orchards, have been precious.
I’d like to fertilize them when I’m dead.
Make no mistake, though, it’ll not come to choosing.
There’ll be a west wind in the week I go.
Or else my southern dust will fall on hated highways
and be for ever swirling to and fro.
Well, as I’ll never know, it doesn’t matter.
I’m not, in truth, romantic about death.
Only I’d like the right wind to be blowing
that takes the place of breath.
“my southern dust” – her dust carried south? “it doesn’t matter” – the direction of the wind when she’s cremated doesn’t matter. But her life matters, and her love of the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire(?) countryside matters. In the last two lines her last breath seems to change instantly into the wind over the crematorium when her body’s burned?