This poem came out of the December 4, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from catsittingstill. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This is a poem of the Whispering Sands desert, one of my established settings.
There are games only played by elves,
or humans who live alongside them,
games drawn out of a lifespan
long enough to need practice
for what comes after.
These are the gravestone games
that grownups play to explore
what happens in old age
and the stage after life.
There is washing and dressing
and feeding and cuddling.
These things are familiar
from playing with dolls and raising babies,
but they are different too.
For the one playing elder
it is a chance to relax and be loved,
to be taken care of and not be responsible
for remembering or doing anything just now.
For the one playing caregiver
it is a chance to express affection
with hands and devotion and little details,
not just words as slender as wind.
There are songs that go with the games,
soft as lullabies, for a sleep without waking.
Ride on a white horse
bedecked with pear blossoms,
lie down in the soft sand between rosebushes,
set the stone in its place
and dare to say
some of the things
that are only said after death.
In this instant
they may be true
but they are not quite real:
it is still only a game.
When the time comes,
at the end of days, the players
are prepared to make the change.
The songs are fond and familiar,
the final sleep feels good after so long a waking,
the Bone Horse moves with a grace beyond angels
passing through the Pear Gate between life and afterlife,
and the stones, too,
remember all that has been said
before them, although they remain silent as the dead.