Looking for Bodies
Poem by Patricia Smith. Photo by Michaela Gabriel.

                                                    New Orleans, 2005


Slowly push the door open with your foot
because wood that has been wet for so long
gives to touch, imitates flesh.
Do not kick the door open,
no matter how weirdly your heart drums.
There may be something all wrong behind it.
Push and immediately drown
in what could be ordinary, if ordinary was
a crusted saucepan, toppled rockers,
pine framed portraits of newly
baptized babies and fathers with an overload of teeth.
Allow yourself his lunatic smile as you spy
signs of ritual and days undone--
bright ghosts of skirts and work-shirts,
or the spiraled grace of decapitated dolls
doing their blind dance, bumping your knees.

Eventually you will need these diversions.
You will lock your fractured heart upon them,
because what you will see next
will hurt you long and aloud.
A monstered smell sings her out of hiding,
and at first you believe
that one doll, plumper than the rest
and still intact,
survived the deluge,
but then you


guide the gold of her into
your arms blessing the droop
and blown skin marveling
at the way her soul rides
slickly on the outside of
everything how it ripples
the water how it so deftly
damns your hands

- Previously Published in Blood Dazzler

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