Rigor Mortis

Christine Larusso

You will learn about the laughter—
            the awkward, jilted escape from
                        the altar of emotion—
that you will see the puddle
            of formaldehyde on the steel
                        table, then laugh.
You do not know what it is
            to be seventeen but somehow,
                        you are. You are
a plank of wood floating down
            a river. You cannot recall the
                        names of every
naked body you have met, but
            you could count them on one
                        hand. Your father
is not dead, not yet, but soon.
            You will enter the Human
                        Dissection Lab
with kitten curiosity, your
            fingers running the circle
                        of every jarred
tumor. You will not faint
            or fever. You will watch
                        the technician
pat the garbage bag that
            covers the dead woman’s
                        vagina as if
he were patting a newborn
            rabbit and you will be very
                        aware of every
hair on your arm. You are not
            the pacemaker that blinked
                        slowly off and
killed her. You did not kill
            the teenage boy, either.
                        Later you will
be a nylon, hashed and plastered
            on the wound you have from
                        running then falling
then skidding your legs on
            the driveway. You are a gash
                        brimming with
tar. You will be the sound
            of ripping the nylon away
                        from your own
once-unblemished flesh.
            Later your larynx will dust
                        like a ghosttown—
the technician will suggest
            you are allergic to the peas
                        inside the packed
lunch. You are not, will never,
            be allergic to peas. You will
                        thumb a Xanax
in your pocket, steal a scalpel
            off an unattended shelf, slice
                        the pill into two
little canoes, later swallow
            the boats while sitting inside
                        your parked
car, a waterfall of rubbing
            alcohol on your patella, your
                        femur. You
are the unmapped abyss of the sea.
            The technician will offer you
                        the dead boy’s
brain to hold, and you will cup it,
            bite your lip, try not to think
                        of raw meat but
it feels like raw meat. Later you
            will learn to expect the ghosts,
                        the way one
expects the mailman, the exact
            time he slips invoices and
catalogs into the slot of the door
            of your home. You will
                        know the cue
and you will climb out of your
            window. You will be locked
                        by a pale
blush, by this pulse. You will
            find that every hallway
                        of every
city has a cold spot, every wall
            has a chafe where the paint
                        slacks and thins.