(For Luis Benitez)
In the dark morning of ritual,
in the mirror of the unacceptable,
is an imperfection
of the imagination
which must be cut and bled,
must be the elaborate object of sacrifice.
Mirrors must be foggy, steamy,
a universal mystery lives there.
Wash the corpse, bathe it with fragrance,
prepare it for the life to come,
meeting with other corpses
in the pretend world,
a world not to be entered simply,
a world opened only by ritual
and entered only by those who
have begun to dream a dead sleep.
Mending the dead is solitary work,
all flaws must be imagined in new ways –
cut, trim. Sharp objects, soaps, tools
of rubber and chrome must be ready
before the cadaver can be
bending close to the mirror,
with the feel of cold ceramics
against bare thighs.
The transformation comes in
slow, sure strokes,
dull skin begins to shine,
untidy patches no longer
are a part of the living.
Water, lots of water rinses away
all signs of life, imperfection.
Imagining a world
where this corpse
walks with other such dead
doesn’t prepare us for
the chance meeting
with the living and dying –
the shock of broken things assaults us,
leaving staring bodies
with blank eyes
marring ritual perfection.