It’s not the body
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
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
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
It’s not the awe of Death
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
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).