A Man Dies in the South. A Widow Mourns
She was reluctant to claim the paltry moment of loss
as her own. Didn't want any of it —
the dark automobiles, blunt-nosed sharks drifting
down the highway as the youngest grandchildren
waved to nothing from the tinted windows
like small-town pageant queens. She didn't
want the ash-soft spot on her wrist he had not grabbed,
had not clutched (what strength was there for that?)
but had merely stroked with his thumb, lightly, mindlessly,
the way one might rub a stone as a worried habit.
There was nothing stricken when it was time.
No final utterances or gestures. But the walls
of the room seemed acutely white,
and the large black men who carried him out
were kind, she later recalled. They were strong,
lifting him like he was nothing. The day was hot
for March, and the humidity was something
to get lost in. Something to palm as
it all went limp.
Of Course the Dead Are Hungry
They want one more stab at it, one more go round.
Even in such a state — their eyes stitched shut, mouths removed.
Well, not removed. More accurately, bunged up. Caulked.
Didn't you know?
Their mouths are filled with grout.
Before the newly-dead wake, the long dead are hard at work,
filling that gaping hole with a putty that dries alabaster white.
The ears and nostrils they fill as well, tilting back the heads
of the newly-dead to funnel the sealant down.
With their trowels, they smooth the surface
between plaster and flesh
so that when the newly-dead wake,
there is nothing of our world to take in,
nothing to see or taste or smell.
But their memories betray them,
and they try to call out for a hint of what they once had.
Their arms wave and grope, wanting so badly
to remember the salty warmth
of flesh going into flesh.
There is nothing to hear, their ears
plugged up as they are with putty.
But from within, something still resonates.
From within, there is the red hum and vibration
of machinery. There is the dog's high-pitched whine,
constant and clear. Begging at some toy
that can't be had.
Anna Lowe Weber currently lives, teaches, and writes in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in The Cimarron Review, Colorado Review, and Iowa Review, among others. (contact)