“Klarman, Mclean: Postmortem” By Emily Duggan

The river
drinks me

eyelids down,
slurps me up

ears-first, then my
gaping lips,
then neck, shoulders
lickety-split,
rickety-soft,
gullet, gut, then
what remains
of my spider-
web hips.

Spits out the bones,
porous, pinpricked.

Then leans in
and swallows me again.

I let it.

The patients left behind
go, eventually,
our separate ways.
Eventually. And the days
grind on, like stones
eroded in a river.

Still, they rock in my head,
thumbtacks in a plastic bag.

Julie was —

We were all girls.
That is a rule.

We are all gone, now.
That is also a rule.

Kayla was a pincushion.
Stuck the needles deep,
real deep, where two pinched fingers
could not retrieve.
So, to Doll Hospital.
They did her ribbons nice,
real nice. Good
and tight. She chewed gum
like an engine.
She drank oil
like an engine.
She disintegrated
like a machine.

I might be wrong. They blend
and knock together
in my memory,
doorknobs in a burlap sack.

Julie —

Aspen, the pliers, broke
her fingers one by one,
every single one. So,
to Appliance Repair,
suggested Mindful Usage
(Spares the Wear and Tear).
So Aspen bit her arms off,
next. Or tried. Stupid
girl: there’s onyx in her blood.
Should have used fire, lightning, anything
else. How could she
have known? The blood
bright red. Her teeth broke
from her head, every single one,
laid out like a family of electrocuted mice.

I am wrong. I am forgetting.

We were all human,
all alive,
and we all survived

long enough to be remembered.

Now, Julie.

Julie was a cobweb
in her mother’s womb.
Ate the woman’s words
and spat out their sounds
in steel strands. Built a bower,
lay there, waiting, in the accruing waste,
an oracle; our offerings
masked the smell. She took to gardening.
Insect graveyard, pilled the earth
with soft and color. The mosquitoes
in her mouth ballooned
amethyst with blood.

And the outbreath of the river
burst her like a lung.

It has nothing to do with the boy:
the Hamlet, the Laertes.
It has nothing, ever, to do with the steak.
If you do not know, do not speak
of the pact these night-girls make
with water.

The current cups its lips
to my neck
with more mercy
than any pulsing mortal.
With ironing-board hands
it holds me. Calls me
its winged one, fresh as a first breath.
Its cure-all. Its triumph
of flesh (or over it).

Ah, ah, ah —

it will never leave me.

— Nor I it.
I was born wanting
this. This unhungry
unforgetfulness
.
This last breath.
This endless, unendable last breath.


Emily Duggan earned her BA in Creative Writing from Brandeis University, and she has since studied writing, performance, and comedy in Boston and Chicago. Her credentials include performing stand-up with the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, performance poetry with slam veteran Marc Smith and the Uptown Poetry Ensemble at Chicago’s Green Mill, and personal poetry as a featured poet and sometimes-regular with the Boston Poetry Slam. She currently makes her living as a dead person in Boston’s ghost-tourism industry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s