by William Doreski

The woman has swallowed nails
and died of perforations.
Her body looks bloodless, flimsy
as papyrus. Her appetite
ascends to shiver in the sky
on a flex of metallic wings.
You claim you didn’t know her,
but she collapsed on your threshold
clutching a suicide note
washed blank by rain. Your sister?
Your cousin? Roommate from college?

The police don’t care. They swab
your granite stoop and photograph
the carcass slumped with eyes rolled
and skirt hitched over scrawny thighs.
Everyone knew her lover had bent
himself backward over a bridge
and dropped a hundred feet to smear
his brains on a basalt outcrop.
Such actions tend to be catching,
like the flu that’s making the rounds
of our dearest friends. Not viral
but digital, this flu consists
of curses instead of sneezes,
kisses instead of coughs. It cures
itself with a poultice of gin.

This nail-eating corpse requires
explanation more than pity,
but when you discovered it
you chuckled like a songbird
and phoned me with a tremor
of wit in your voice. The cops
bag and haul it away without
bothering to write down your name.
They know that swallowing nails
to pierce one’s abdomen’s a sign
of beatification, not murder;
and that a couple like us, stainless
in watery October sunlight,
lacks the faith to understand.


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