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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
5 Jun 2023

Jackson sat at Kay’s bedside, one of her hands laid atop his, palm to palm, fingertips against the soft inside of her wrist. His fingers measured her temperature and pulse, her blood pressure, and her blood oxygen levels. She was no weaker or stronger today than yesterday. He was unsurprised and uneasy. Her vitals were regular with sleep. She had been resting when he returned from the shore.
You do not mean this as slang.
certain people of the town go outside, kick off their shoes
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