Joy Icayan The 2River View, 9.3 (Spring 2005)
In the Mortuary

She is teaching me how to touch
the dead body in front of us, trying to peel
the eyes open. Look, she says
and then presses the scalpel through
the skin, carefully that not a drop smears
our hands. No, she won’t stain herself with
me watching. That is not how her art goes.
Now, she’s smiling. Perhaps in another world,
the corpse is smiling back, twisting his face,
mocking us both. And then perhaps
they will dance without moving, to a music
only they can hear. And she’ll feel him
without touching, as if the slight wrinkle
of her fingers will wake him, make him breathe
and his eyes will flicker and he will say,
The syringe in my stomach hurts. And why
is it I'm feeling so cold?
That—or when
she drops the scalpel, it will fall straight
to the floor, metal clanging against cold concrete.
And I will tell her—that’s how it sounds,
a scalpel falling. Remember that. And I too
will remember that afternoon, how her hair reeked
of formalin, how everything else reeked of her.

Someday when I’m unafraid, I will tell her
Look, here’s what the living can do.
And I will cover her ears until every noise
is drowned and all the world is
but a fish view. I will stare at her and I will be
silent. For her, I will be still.

Cover Page Table of Contents Previous Poem Next Poem 2River