Legerdemain

It’s not the body

afterward

that fascinates me,

though I’ll wash the corpse with herbs and fragrant oils

in flower-petaled water.

I’ll dress the cooling, stiffening limbs

and wish the body’s soul

a gentle journey.

 

It’s not the struggle

during

that compels me,

though I’ll have seen the body’s poetry

before the struggle ends:

I’ll wonder at the left foot calloused so,

and hold the hand with jagged scar or

missing thumb;

I’ll read the tales that limn the face

and tiny crystal details

sparkling in the fading eyes.

I’ll bring more morphine,

moisten pasty lips and tongue,

watch the belly rise and fail

to pull air past the gurgling sounds,

anticipate the inhale never followed

by another.

 

It’s not the awe of Death

nearby

that draws me,

but that always it arrives unseen

while I still wait its coming.

And when I understand the moment’s

come, it’s gone,

the sacred glue already vaporized,

life detached from flesh,

abandoned cells deflating,

blood settling to covert bruises,

leaving frozen eyes

and skin the hue of corn-silk

or of wood ash.

 

It is that magic trick

right before

my eyes that I can’t grasp,

that brings me back again

(just one more time) to catch

Death’s sleight of hand,

when is has changed to was

beneath the sheet.

And I’d not appreciate the irony

if, when I finally see the switch,

it happens in my body;

if at last I know the wizard’s trick

but have no breath

with which to tell.

 

Cynthia Trenshaw is a poet and explorer at the edges of our culture. She lives on Whidbey Island WA where she posts monthly blogs at CynthiaTrenshaw.com. Her latest book is Meeting in the Margins: An Invitation to Encounter Society’s Invisible People (She Writes Press, Berkeley).

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