The Dead

by Fleda Brown

The dead are disorderly. If they rot, worms;
if cremated, a waste of smoke. Maybe rot
is better. For where does fire-energy go? I see
energy transferred to worms and so on. But fire
speeds up molecules, then they slow down.
Worms can sometimes turn into winged things.
Good grief, I'm here on the dock thinking how best
to be dead! A dead fish lies on the lake bottom,
white belly up, quickly absorbed into the under-
world. The day's getting warmer. The day depends
upon the release of energy from the dead, whatever
has turned itself over to this rising. Triple layers:
earth, water, air-transversed only by those
who've taken the plunge, so to speak. I'm caught,
my foot in the bear-trap of living. Mother's grave
is sinking, the cheap casket. We've betrayed her
once again. I feel her feeling, the suffering she
feels in there, the dirt, the disorder. She'll never
be smoke; she's heavier, sadder. I don't want to
talk about this. People who talk about abstractions
are like jet-trails that gradually disperse. Others
rot. They are loved by worms. Sad as it is, it's
more exacting. There are bones, fingernails, hair,
and then the bones go, and the hair looks like dirt.
The dirt is happy and the body is happy
to be opened, after a lifetime of nail biting. It loves
the way the air filters through, like carbonation.
It feels that it cannot feel. The not-feeling is like
not-being, only more so: it is being all the way
through, nothing to get in the way. Here come
four ducklings, there used to be five, still downy,
with their mother. I imagine the fifth one, the quick
turtle's jaw, the bloop under, the mother's wild
circling, then all settling, easy. The rest want me
to feed them. They bob in a nice neat row.

Last updated December 12, 2022