They place the body in a quiet room
For the family to mourn
In privacy; to weep, to clutch
At the warmth fading
From her hands,
To caress her lifelike face.
We are all so sorry for their loss
(I am so sorry for your loss)
I am so sorry
Brown bodies, black bodies, white.
Yellowed, bruised, bodies become blue.
We live within arms and legs,
Torsos, minds within skulls
Conjuring visions beyond body,
When a body goes cold.
Black bodies, pale bodies
Lined up like piano keys.
Let us turn to hymn number 533.
Let us turn the page.
It’s time to mumble along
To the next lachrymal song.
We open our eyes,
And lose the concept of color.
We breathe deep
And lose the sense of smell.
We reach to touch
And lose the ability to feel.
Flesh stiffens, gathers pallor,
The skin grows turgid as the insides bloat.
(This seems like exploitation
But I’m just trying not
To die inside---
Where I’ve drawn my own curtains
Around a flickering flame.
Lonesome inner shivering
When the engine keeps on running,
Wasting ambient heat,
Saps strength, a will
To keep striving.
You’re just beat)
My body is soft and hard and angled and curved,
Defined by numbers; pounds, inches and feet.
But these fingers are the limits of my reach.
This heel is the depth of my step.
This skull is the extent of my knowing.
Bodies at their best are bio-machines
That take up space,
Heat up, cool down
Eat, drink, get tired.
When the body expires
It just gets in the way.
(Can’t be stashed in attics or closets)
Elegies and wakes elapse
In a whirlwind of lost time.
We bury the ones that accept their decay.
But about the bodies
That can’t yet go in the ground----
With hearts that doggedly beat,
Lungs that respire
Eyes that open to morning light,
Minds that wake to a chilled dawn
And must brush their teeth,
Tie their shoes,
Comb their hair,
Check their lists
Get ready to make rounds---
We have nothing more to say.
There are always forms to be completed,
To document the recent cold dead.
The county sends them out after a few days:
Time of death, immediate causes
Check here for autopsy
Time and date of passing
It sits on my desk like an anvil
Strapped to my waist
But I’m landlocked
Wishing someone would toss it
Into a frigid sea,
Drag me down into the depths;
A silencing final mercy.
(This here is my own form,
The one that gets filled out next,
To make sure a fire still burns,
Before the embers all die,
Before I forget I’m still alive.)
The ones we lose,
Once laid in the ground,
Never go alone;
They take a piece of us with them,
Exchanged for a dusting of ashes.
The sun sets, the smoke rises
And we gradually cool