by Roger Sippl
At the center clearing, in Black Rock City, on the last night they burn the man. But on prior nights one of the other kindling buildings, or perhaps the temple, burns in the black.
The temple I visited one squinty desert blue sky morning was built all of highly flammable pine, of course, but it was a sturdy structure anyway, cross-laced with timbers. It was three stories, like a treehouse on Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer's Island. You staple, nail or pin cards, letters or pictures to the walls of it. I read hundreds of them.
Some were poems written by the person attending, some were short notes written by someone else and proxy posted. Some were full letters, often to dead people, and there was a 50/50 mix of being nice to the dead person or being not-so-nice to the dead person. Like, "Dad, there were reasons I hated you,” usually from daughters. Often the reasons were listed, in detail, "purging" the problem. The thing seemed to be that you write it down, encapsulate it and then externalize it by tacking it up, and then you watch it burn in hundred-foot flames that night.
It's a thought.
Indeed, in a slightly-drug tinged dream afterward, under a dark and clear sky, clarity of night thinking showed me each problem, in white video, rising with the flames, and continuing up to find an empty space between the stars, to lodge itself there, as it dissipates.
About the Author
Sippl studied creative writing at UC Irvine, Berkeley and Stanford Continuing Studies, and has been published in dozens of journals including The Ocean State Review and The Bacopa Literary Review.