By Jenny Apostol

April 12, 2021


“What kind of urn do you have in mind?”

“No need,” I tell the funeral director. “My mother was a potter.”

In the brownstone where I grew up, mother stashed a potter’s wheel behind a Japanese screen built by my father. When she wasn’t throwing pots, I rode that wheel like a merry-go-round. Below the plate that held the clay, was an enormous millstone, thick and rough as poured concrete. I would perch there, push off with my feet, fingers barely around the pole as I tipped my body backwards. Momentum reeled me in a circle, past jars of glaze and cans of brushes. A ticklish current ran up to my throat.

“A stew dish should work to hold her,” I continue. "It has a lid.”

“Okay,” the woman replies, impassive. “I see what you mean.” Does she?

In mother’s hands, mounds of earthenware rose and opened like dervishes, while her foot gently tapped the stone in rhythm. Perhaps I’d watched her make the sturdy, would-be urn, which she’d glazed the color of eyes in lamplight. The paperwork is done, the funeral director looks up. What she thinks, I do not know. “No urn, then,” she repeats, “for the cremains.”

The word dangles between us, a dancer waiting for a note to begin. Like “craisins” or “Brangelina,” “cremains” is a merge of two opposites: sour and sweet, him and her, bones and ash. Death and invention, hands clasped together, circling faster and faster with nowhere else to go.


Jenny Apostol’s essays and poetry have been published in Brevity, Creative Nonfiction's "Sunday Short Reads," River Teeth Journal’s “Beautiful Things,” Haibun Today, Blood Tree Literature, and Flatbush Review. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop, and lives outside of Washington, D.C.


Photo by Pixabay courtesy of Pexels 

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