This Man

It’s especially quiet next to the morgue.
To the left is a library. To the right is a church.
A library is a careful neighbor.
Patrons rarely sneeze there. The librarians,
equipped as they are with foreboding glasses
and respectable tweed, never make a sound.
Their date stamps are outfitted with silencers.
The nuns on the other flank breathe sparingly,
their collective exhalations
enough only to ruffle curtain hems.
The music of their heads shut in
behind archival vows.

In the morgue works one man for every twelve bodies.
This man has seven children. He loves
the silence and the privacy of his autopsies,
the way, by the end of each work day,
his lab coat grows patterned with the bits that cling
from the insides of his open abdomens.
He loves the sudsing machine that each night
quietly bleaches his coat to forgetfulness.

In the morgue is the quiet of the dead,
but also the quiet of a proximity to bibles
and children reading. The quiet
of the living not wanting to disturb the living.
Each morning this man opens his heavy drawers
to see inside them, to look in at the stopped faces.
To pause a moment for the people lying there
like comfortable old shoes.


Contributor’s Notes: Rebecca Macijeski’s poetry has appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Lullwater Review and The Salon. She is a graduate of the M.F.A. program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and currently serves as the assistant poetry editor for Hunger Mountain. She is studying toward a Ph.D. in poetry at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, where she is a senior poetry reader for Prairie Schooner. Three of her poems were recently chosen as winners of a 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize. She has been awarded artist residencies with The Ragdale Foundation and Art Farm Nebraska.