It’s not pretty, they say as they peel
your carcass off the pavement.
Car wreck, on your way to chemo
from rehab. You’d be surprised
how often 20 percent hits.
You should have gambled more.
Now, they’re stealing your organs
for science. Sewing you back up,
sewing your eyelids shut. Rouged.
Looking lukewarm in a suit
you never wore. Like a ventriloquist
dummy run over in a fit of rage, then
reassembled and polished in apathy.
In homage, Monks are said to sit
with their dead loved ones for days
and even weeks. Watching the stages
of decomposition must provide a closure
like no other. Better than a Good Book.
Here, they cry over you as you enter
the dirt, reeking of formaldehyde.
The ground swallows you: Autolysis.
Your casket is modest; you might have
done worse. In some parts of the world,
cholera is still spread by dead bodies
infecting the town’s drinking supply.
I miss you too. After the crying ends
everyone starts divvying up your stuff,
fighting over your money,
selling your prized possessions,
tossing the junk, Hello Goodwill, stuff
you worked your whole life to collect.
Meanwhile, that modest casket
has let in worms and spiders.
Self-digestion has ended. Phase two
comes the bloating. The eyes of your
old face resemble the bugs feeding on
your new face. How long before you’re
forgotten? Before they move on? They
keep your picture still behind those
other pictures on the dresser. They still
have dinner each year on the anniversary.
Step 3: Active Decay. Organs, muscles,
and skin become liquified. No longer
foaming at the mouth. Skeletonization is
the final word. By now, everyone you knew
has joined you. Underground, a ghoulish
reunion occurs. The ultimate Halloween
bash. Heaven or Hell? You decide, as you
pretend to like the same people you did
when your bones were still chattering
behind shattering backs. The secret is,
like you, everyone pretends what they do
matters, until finally, our slow rot
dissipates. Gone. Returned. Digested
by Earth. Perhaps, you should have
smiled more, said yes more. Perhaps,
you should have been a pirate, ran
for office—or finished your vegetables.