Where do the dead go?

The dead that are not cosmetically renewed,
boxed, their faces familiar and serene.
Or brought to an essence, pale ashes
in elegant cannisters.

I ask for the other dead
those ghosts that wander unshriven among our sleep
haunting the borderlands of our lives.

The dead dreams
the failed loves
the quests, undertaken with full courage
and paid for in blood
that never found a dragon, a Grail, a noble ordeal
and the Hero's sacred journey home.

Instead, the wrong fork was somehow taken, or the road
wandered aimlessly, finally narrowing
to a tangled gully
and the Hero was lost, in the gray and prosaic rain
hungry, weary, to finally stop somewhere, anywhere
glad of bread, a fire, a little companionship.

Where is their graveyard?
Were they mourned?
Did we hold a wake,
bear flowers, eulogize their bright efforts
their brave hopes
and commemorate their loss with honor?
A poem?
An imperishable stone to mark their passing?

Did we give them back to the Earth
to nourish saplings yet to flower?
the unborn ones?

Or were they left to wander
in some unseen Bardo, unreleased, ungrieved,
did we turn our backs on them unknowing
their voices calling, whispering impotently
behind us
shadowing our steps?

--Lauren Raine