I am thinking of how, in years
gone by, we women mourned
the dead. It’s women’s work, you said.
Let our hands not be bloodied by it.
You did not say: We are afraid. We, who
cling to the lie of our immortality.
Death cannot come to us if we do not go to it.
We will send our women in our place
and make it theirs.
Let them know death like a lover
so that we may come to it a stranger.
Let them carry that weight.
Let our own bodies be clean,
And so we kept our vigils
by the bedsides of the near-dead, the dying.
We wrote their last words so that
their sons could tell their sons
and brothers. We pressed
our palms close to where the life
once was and felt its absence in
the very core of us. With tender hands
we washed the stain of death
from those we’d loved best,
took the poison of it into our own bones
and you recoiled from the
rotten meat of us, called us
And now we cannot even
mourn our own. Our candles
snuffed out like so many last
breaths. Our flowers trampled into
the earth where they will never
bloom again. Something else is taking
root entirely, something that cannot
be cleansed. We carry the stain of you.
Your hands were the bloody ones all along.
As though so much blood could ever
be washed away. As though we could
ever purify the ground beneath
your feet. Something is being