The Dark Mountain Blog

Sky Burial

We cut off his fingers
Joint by joint and then at the wrist as well

Then cleaving from sockets and sinews his elbows and shoulders
His flesh was tight against our blades and our hands were
Greasy with blood and viscera and gristle after hauling up the fresh
Death upon our backs to the peak above the village where
Amid dry weeds mummified by endless winter
The bare steep face of the mountain looks over the valleys
Which surround these empty wastes

Fingers greasy with his death and his body and sinews
He whom we knew so much of or at least well enough to mourn
And thangkas drape awnings of lashed bones and stretched skins
Rich with colour glowing under the funereal blaze
Every design an imitation of the view
Though does the sun die for him
He our friend in a binding of vines
Dry like his fingers would be three days hence were it not
For our practice which we’ve undertaken
He of golden skin muscled in memory
Thangkas like national flags of the handfuls of houses in our village
Scattered like the digits and segments which we cast
Strewn about these cliffs which we know so
Well and which know us far further than any of our memories permit

The thangkas
Flags of a nation fivefold and individual they bear
The patterns of the family which made them
They flutter in the wind
As we pass with calloused hands which smell of iron

We tattoo ourselves with sharpened bone-picks
Inscribing and instructing those who
Must cut us up as we have done
For our friends those most dear

For they will not know
Those who come after
They will not know the methods so we demarcate the lines and
Joints and diagram the sinews of ourselves and indicate
As best we can over fires and alcohol to
Allow tears and the clarity which follows as we indicate
With ink of macabre origin the places a blade must navigate

We are cartographers of the corpses
We must eventually become.

Daniel Lenaghan writes, makes music and brews makgeolli in Seoul, South Korea. His current projects include the arts and literary blog Nouveau Trad, the lo-fi studio project Murakami Girls, and teaching traditional Korean brewing at Susubori in Seoul. He is inspired by mixing culture, tradition, sound and space.

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