As if a grave had opened up beneath us;
something had crawled under the floorboards
to die all summer. What do you think it is?
Where did it come from? A mouse, worse,
a rat? And the dining room of all places.
We walked above that death for weeks,
gauging daily the strength of its reek,
until it didn’t seem to matter that much.
We were shunned, of course, no one seeing fit
to visit us, and there were days when, I admit,
I thought that drastic measures were called for.
Why had it chosen us of all people, our floor
to slide beneath and die? A badge of honour,
you said, it must have known it would rest in peace
with us, undisturbed until the process ceased.
The flies proved an altogether different matter,
an incessant soundtrack to that long summer
of your degradation, their bright alumni
clouding around a body we could not see,
helping it on its way, on its journey
through death’s staging posts --- pallor,
algor, rigor, livor ---until we stepped in at stage five,
putrefaction, the breakdown of all organic matter.
Surprising what we learn to live with, even love.
I opened the door one day and you were gone.
On all fours --- a cat --- I sought your smell one last time,
nothing, not a whiff. What had you become ---
a stain, a tat of hair, bones even a whisper would sweep
away? Surprising what we learn to love.
On all fours again, I hang my head and weep.