Size / / /

They bring their dead to me daily
Rich or poor they bring their dead
We talk and the purses open
wide, we talk
and the deceased patiently wait
stacked upon wooden slabs
like loaves of stale bread

They leave their dead with me
in my hands
and when my hands finish
working on the living
they go to work on the dead

My instruments shine in the sharp light
incise flesh, saw bones, extract
slightly stiffened organs
The living wait
The dead wait
Osiris' arms open and wait
     Seventy days and nights
for a perfect preservation

This is what it has come down to
A highly paid mechanical science
Insert probes into the nasal passage
puncture skull, stir, scoop and pull
The hollow head gratefully nods

This is what it has come to
Pack the cavities with herbal pouches
carefully prepared, blessed, packed
My hands wrap anointed cloth
blackened, sticky, the preservative odor
permeates my hair, my robes, my hands
wrap and wrap the dead daily
and their purses open wide
and the dead remain
simply dead remains


Copyright © 2001 Maryann Hazen-Stearns

Reader Comments

Maryann Hazen-Stearns has recently completed her first collection of poetry, Under the Limbo Stick, courtesy of Straw House Press. She has been published internationally and has won many awards and contests. Mary enjoys work as a Poetry Editor, Poetry Competition Judge. She is also involved with The Alchemy Poetry Club, the Catskill Reading Society, the Woodstock Poetry Society, and Poets & Writers.

Current Issue
30 Jan 2023

In January 2022, the reviews department at Strange Horizons, led at the time by Maureen Kincaid Speller, published our first special issue with a focus on SF criticism. We were incredibly proud of this issue, and heartened by how many people seemed to feel, with us, that criticism of the kind we publish was important; that it was creative, transformative, worthwhile. We’d been editing the reviews section for a few years at this point, and the process of putting together this special, and the reception it got, felt like a kind of renewal—a reminder of why we cared so much.
It is probably impossible to understand how transformative all of this could be unless you have actually been on the receiving end.
Some of our reviewers offer recollections of Maureen Kincaid Speller.
Criticism was equally an extension of Maureen’s generosity. She not only made space for the text, listening and responding to its own otherness, but she also made space for her readers. Each review was an invitation, a gift to inquire further, to think more deeply and more sensitively about what it is we do when we read.
When I first told Maureen Kincaid Speller that A Closed and Common Orbit was among my favourite current works of science fiction she did not agree with me. Five years later, I'm trying to work out how I came to that perspective myself.
Cloud Atlas can be expressed as ABC[P]YZY[P]CBA. The Actual Star , however, would be depicted as A[P]ZA[P]ZA[P]Z (and so on).
In the vast traditions that inspire SF worldbuilding, what will be reclaimed and reinvented, and what will be discarded? How do narratives on the periphery speak to and interact with each other in their local contexts, rather than in opposition to the dominant structures of white Western hegemonic culture? What dynamics and possibilities are revealed in the repositioning of these narratives?
a ghostly airship / sorting and discarding to a pattern that isn’t available to those who are part of it / now attempting to deal with the utterly unknowable
Most likely you’d have questioned the premise, / done it well and kindly then moved on
In this special episode of Critical Friends, the Strange Horizons SFF criticism podcast, reviews editors Aisha Subramanian and Dan Hartland introduce audio from a 2018 recording for Jonah Sutton-Morse’s podcast Cabbages and Kings which included Maureen Kincaid Speller discussing with Aisha and Jonah three books: Everfair by Nisi Shawl, Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan, and The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar.
Friday: House of the Dragon Season One 
Issue 23 Jan 2023
Issue 16 Jan 2023
Issue 9 Jan 2023
Strange Horizons
2 Jan 2023
Welcome, fellow walkers of the jianghu.
Issue 2 Jan 2023
Strange Horizons
Issue 19 Dec 2022
Issue 12 Dec 2022
Issue 5 Dec 2022
Issue 28 Nov 2022
By: RiverFlow
Translated by: Emily Jin
Issue 21 Nov 2022
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