Leslie McGrath


If you can bear it so, be dead
among the dead. The dead are occupied.



     After they washed my body
     and threaded my arms through the sleeves
     of a dress I’d bought in the thirties
     in a Cuernavaca market, they looped a rosary
     around my folded hands. A bloom
     from the bougainvillea is tucked behind my ear.
     I am dressed for church; I am beautiful
     in death. Oh, the perfume of my hands
     rises from me like prayer. I am gone, yet here
     I lie waiting for the man
     to come for me, to wrap and box me,
     to burn what’s left. Unusable,
     this brittle spine, these still feet.
     Unusable, these folded hands,
     hands that tended, arranged,
     wiped clean floors cleaner still,
     hands that chose the melon,
     sliced and served it, threw out the rind—
     the unusable rind. These hands loved work,
     what will there be for me now?
     Life was work; death should be no different.



"Corpus" first appeared in Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, fall 2004, volume 48, no. 1.