Kathleen Hellen

memento mori
by Kathleen Hellen

oblivion, the cruelest place to be — line adapted from Gregory Orr

in this museum of the catastrophic, this
gallery of specimens…

I pet the filaments of beard, smooth his
eyebrows, ask the floor nurse who calls him by his name
—beloved—

for ruff, for part that won’t decay after his passing. That
top-knot of his sable thinned—that
fineness table-

worked, rebearing like a broken barge this irreconcilable direction.

I’d thought that I could bring him back from narrow passages
lit with jack-o-lanterns, back to find under the porchlight
the dinosaur I’d ordered

from a catalogue…a talisman
against the guise of death he fiercely masked.
I’d stitched by hand

the cape, the cap that mummed the horny plates. The pattern
that had failed him,
despite the fierce expression.

No species of maternal can protect
the hatchling from the ash, the sandstorm of the organs

…the nest an artifact, the egg like hardened loaf inside the empty
center—the jeopardy of the body

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 21, Issue 3.

Kathleen HellenKathleen Hellen is the author of The Only Country was the Color of My Skin, the award-winning collection Umberto’s Night, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Hellen has won the Thomas Merton poetry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review, as well as awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.

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