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Preparing the Dead

                                                            for Jamie

To prepare the dead I dig out
one purple rubber glove
from under the kitchen sink.

The city of Oakland will take her body only
for sixty two dollars payable in person
between the hours of nine and eleven a.m. on a weekday.

Yesterday she was clinging to a sapling,
dark slit eyes in sharp pale face,
babies climbing over and under.

Today her belly quivers under my glove
as I draw her up. Wisps of hair, tough feet
sliding into a garbage bag. Sweet dusk

coming down over our heads. Your eyes are red.
Stripping off the glove, I put arms around you.
We too are bureaucrats of death:

for lack of an animal control officer
we let her die. From the deck
we could not see her pouch caught on a hook

in the tree (a hook we did not place
and did not remove). Holding fast, she weakened.
Tomorrow two of her babies will die

huddled in the rain even under
the cardboard shelter you laid out.
You’ll have to tell the children.


About the Author: Meg Yardley lives and works in Oakland. Her writing has appeared in Rattle, Hanging Loose, Leveler, AMP, and others.