Prose Header

Night Job

by John Grey

Such wondrous death,
no slab ever graced finer,
facade as pale as love,
body stilled in opulent repose,
makes lovers of worm and fly
and toothless attendant all.

No longer week-old newspapers
to thumb through, half-shredded
Sports Illustrateds from three seasons ago,
but a sumptuous work of art,
begun by God, perfected by formaldehyde,
the undertaker’s paints and powders.

And did she just move? A twitch here?
A flutter there? Can’t be. The dead
live only in the heads, the hearts,
of their ancient minders.
Maybe it’s his eyes, those trembling
orbs irrigated by blood.
Or candle flame juggling senses.

Could be the drink. Always the drink.
The squat dark flask squeezed between cadavers.
That tall brown bottle falsely labeled “Embalming Fluid.”
But he hasn’t had a sip since Tuesday.
He could use one now.
Hey, maybe this is a wish coming true.
Then why is this wish foaming at the mouth and hissing?

No. She’s puckering her lips.
He wishes he’d shaved. But he hasn’t
shaved in years. At least bathed.
But water’s toxic to his shriveled skin.
Besides, what do the dead know from
sweet-smelling, from clean-shaven.

Such wondrous death.
The living would not look sideways at him.
But the dead awaken to his obvious charms.
She wraps her lifeless arms around his waist,
lowers her thoughtless head toward his throat,
with mordant fangs
bites down hard on his jugular.

And now he has his own slab
beside his lover.
No cycle ever turned so sweet.
They even shaved him,
hosed his corpse.
He sleeps his darkness during day,
at midnight, secures his light
in the tiny bulb
that wanly halos the new caretaker.
And so he rises.
His dead mate also.
Ah... such wondrous living.

Copyright © 2008 by John Grey

Open Challenge 305...

Home Page