When You're Done With the Living
In the afternoon a young boy was stabbed
and bled out onto the playground
while everyone outside scattered, inside
they went about their day and the doors
were locked from both sides.
It's a church now, but years ago
my uncle and father-in-law brought
bodies through the backdoor
and replaced the blood with
fluid dyed red to give the cheeks
color, to smooth out the wrinkles.
There's an alert they give, but only when it happens inside the school, and even then the last time it did they didn't give the alert because everyone would know what that meant. We found out afterward, when the gun was unloaded and the child in handcuffs, crying that he just wanted to scare them, that's all, just scare them, was taken quietly out into the fresh spring air.
The boy had no wrinkles to speak
of and all he saw was the wrought iron
fence and the yellow grocery sign
proclaiming they do indeed have phone
cards, and in his ears he heard the rustling
of the falls and the slow beating of his heart.
The sky was blue, the air cool, the sunlight warm.
The first thing they do when the body arrives is to sew up the severed arteries and veins so the preservative will not spurt out of the wounds. The skin is washed, the face is shaved carefully. The muscles are then massaged to lessen the effects of rigor mortis. This is someone's job.
When the pope dies, his forehead is tapped
with a small hammer while his secretary
calls out his given Christian name three times
before he is pronounced dead. This is well
known and documented, if it ever was a secret.
His mother would call his name many
times in Spanish during the ride to
the hospital where the emergency room
doctor would pronounce him dead and look
at his watch on the underside of his wrist.
An incision is made in the neck, sometimes in the groin, and a finger probes for the carotid artery—it looks like a small pink rubber hose. This is where they attach the tube to pump the fluid in and the blood out.
The middle school is just a few blocks
from the high school, which is right
down the street from your house, and your aunt's
and uncle's houses, and your grandparent's
houses, and there's the grocery and the pharmacy
and the Indian restaurant, and then the funeral
home, and then the cemetery. The company that
makes the headstones is right there, too.
Why does anyone ever feel the need to leave this block?
The trocar, a sharp metal tube connected to a vacuum, is pushed into the abdomen, removing its contents. The trocar is then pushed through the diaphragm, often by slapping it with the palm of the hand until a familiar popping sound precedes the muscle giving way. It's moved from side to side, breaking up the organs until they can be sucked through the narrow tube.
It wasn't planned—the way he left his backpack
at the house, his homework unfinished,
the lunch provided by the state with its
fruits and vegetables in small plastic cups.
And thank God for the fire drill, until all hell
broke loose and pushed itself down the road
to the playground outside of my classroom window.
An eye cap is a hard piece of plastic, slightly larger than a contact lens but smaller than a quarter, which has been poked through with a needle repeatedly, causing small plastic spurs to stick out from the surface. These are placed over cotton pads, which are placed over the eyeball. The eyelid is then closed, the spurs keeping it in place. This is for your comfort, not his.
"This is my block, this is my world"—I know you said
over and over till there was nothing left to say.
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