Poetry, Summer 2001

Death Poetics
Eman Quotah, Kimberly Townsend Palmer,  
Jude Roy
, and Bob Thurber
At Home

Eman Quotah

The moths sleep
on my parents’ walls, wings closed.
There are four in my bedroom.
I step barefooted
onto a tiny brown corpse on the carpet,
find a winged body
floating in the toilet,
another half-buried in the brown sugar.

At night, no room in the house
is motionless.
Brown wings flutter,
bump into my knees.
Mom finds two in the foyer:
“They’re reproducing faster
than I can kill them.”

Our next-door neighbor is dying
of cancer. I’ve been home
two days before I see him
through the chain link fence.
He’s faded and bald,
his arms and legs as thin and stiff
as the metal frame of his lawn chair.

I say, “How are you?”
“Oh, I’m okay,” he says.
I want to die; I want to kick myself.

Mom says, “He looks like death,”
but to me
it’s something more frightening.

What do they talk about,
he and his wife?
Bed sores and breakfast,
and I’m scared to death of dying,
and I’m scared to death that life
will go on without you?

Or do they say nothing?
Each of them trying not to think,
trying to stop the moths
multiplying in their heads.

© 2001 Eman Quotah

Ex. Ossibus
by Kimberly Townsend Palmer

Centuries after I die,
my skeleton will be dug up and
displayed in a museum,
the most beautiful bones
in the world— how their perfect
forms will inspire the sensitive,
the artistic, the overwrought— 
though while I lived
you couldn’t tell from outside
how much beauty lay within. 
My bones will be stored
in reliquaries made of silver, gold
and rock crystal, starburst shaped,
laid carefully inside glass cases
on gray velvet.  I will be placed
next to a 16th-century illuminated
treatise on falconry,
down the hall from a pearwood gittern,
once stroked by Elizabeth the First. 
Only the devout, the reverent,
will be allowed to dust me. 
Young girls and boys
will be driven mad by my perfection. 

© 2001 K.T. Palmer


When Daddy Died
by Jude Roy

When Daddy died
I locked myself
In the old outhouse outside.

I cried
And asked God why. 

The only answer:
The sound of maggots
Feasting on the shit
© 2001 Jude Roy

Death’s Delay
by Bob Thurber

Death wore an overcoat to my mothers funeral.
He wore a hat with fur flaps turned down,
and a red scarf and fuzzy green mittens.
A heavy snow slanted down on the wind.
I waited, and Death waited.
Behind us on the hill the entire procession sat in steaming cars.
How long you staying, I asked Death.
But I gave him no time to answer.
I said, We have food and drink in a nice rented hall.
Its not much.
Chicken and ham salad.
Assorted cheeses with crackers, pickles, olives.
Some sliced fruit. Youre welcome to join us, I said.
I waited for Death to make up his mind.
After a long while my wife trudged down the hill.
Her scarf trailed behind her.
Dont do this to yourself, she said.

© 2001 Bob Thurber


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