“Burial of Atala,” Anne-Louis Girodet, 1808, WikiArt.

City-kingdom of Myonia, family prepared
Body of Atala for burial, bathed in oils,
Adorned with flower petals, linen-bound,
Ceremony of mystical chants, musical
Refrains, lyre and lute, prayers and hymns,
Body and soul disjoined, mourners waving
Tree boughs, wind-mimicking, visible life-
Force of gods. “Transformed I have been,”
Funeral choir sang. “Invisible except by
Flames, myself given to windy willow trees.”

“We implore living flames!” Atala’s family
Stated aloud. “Ancient customs observed,
End of day, end of life, eternal darkness
Unfolding, seen and unseen, that which is
And is not.” Upon hilltops, they gathered,
Mother of Atala stepped forth, necklace of
Shells, feathers, and animal bones, torch
Lighting, participants brought fire, alighting
Lamp of Living Flame, each condolences
Offered to Atala, family of the dead.

With burning torches raised, mourners
Sang to sky, “From flesh to wind, from
Living flame of life to phantom seen, soul
And body unwound.” Torches thrust to
Pyre, flames skyward bound. Tongues of
Fire cried aloud, “Atala we evoke, daughter
Of mortal flesh, majesty of soul, come forth.”
In grief or passions raised, some tore hair,
Bared naked breasts to flaming light, arms
And legs contorted, in death grip seized.

“Twilight, Vallée de la Cluse,” Henry William Banks Davis, 1863, WikiArt.

Within flames, transparent form appeared,
Head and face aglow, body emerging within
Swirling smoke, descending to gathered
Mourners, parents of the dead, hands and
Arms outstretched. “I have become flame,”
Declared Atala. “Taste and touch of fire,
Soul and body separated, for moments,
I am alive.” Phantom to smoke became,
Ancient ritual of flame, Atala lives as
Wind upon hills of willow trees.

Another poem dreamt, images of Atala and living flames
upon my pillow, in dark of night, electric blanket set too
hot to breathe.

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