Mickey J. Corrigan

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Corpse Care

      NOTE: Quoted lines in italics from The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot

Logistics: pick up the bodies,
bag and double tag, code
transfer by forklift
into refrigerated trucks
hold for two weeks
or until claimed.

Unclaimed: forklift bags
gentle into pine boxes
truck to the gravesite
stack like overdue books
in a library of the passed
in the fresh dug dirt
pit beside strangers
lonely and beloved.

Who are those hooded hordes swarming…
stumbling in cracked earth?

Claimed: more fortunate
transport to funeral homes
roll down crowded halls
past wall to wall caskets
in dimness, cold
empty viewing rooms
or across state lines
where metrics are better.

At funerals: no pomp
due to circumstance
sometimes nothing
just the hole
a silent prayer dropped
by tired gravediggers.

At home: still
we are here
in the same box
six feet apart
but not
six feet under.

Artwork by Gene McCormick 


I will show you fear
in a handful of dust

It's your last year
fighting off the constraints
of your personal biology
and the art of dying
comes hard, striking
like a dust storm—
you may survive
these brutal winds
or not.

At the white warehouse
nobody really knows
who is dead
or dying
just waiting
until the next lull
so they sustain you
as long as you lie still
silent and breathing hope
from a tube or pump.

They will harm you
rather than tell you
it's time to go.

This is the modern way
to hang on, gripping
the bedrails like it's a train car
screaming down a mountain pass.

Rarely is there nothing
more they can do and they will
do and do more
until you say
the train wreck
I'm getting off.

You have no experience
to draw on
you are new at dying

but you can do it—
anyone can.


Mickey J. Corrigan lives in the hot zone of South Florida and tries to avoid viruses, pythons, and hurricanes. Recent publications include the disappearing self (Kelsey Books, 2020) and What I Did for Love (Bloodhound Books UK, 2019), a spoof of Lolita.