First the smell, then the ribs
fetid at the edges of the dark water.
Rotted, open, I visit each day,
monitor the slow decay, think deer,
then raccoon, then possum. What’s left—
matted fur emerging from mud,
a small skull, all carnivorous teeth
intact. Is it not a waste to leave it reeking
at the shoreline of a manmade pond?
I plunge a stick into parietal space, pluck
skull from spine, the bone’s silent release.
Surrender body by water’s edge,
a whole faceless face dangles
from crooked branch. I leave
rove beetles to work, glean meaty creases,
liberate a waxless shape. Days later
I home the form, brighten it with bleach
to adorn my altar. Kin to hawk feathers,
driftwood, Caribbean shells, round stones
smaller than my palm. Preservation—
an act of praise. I kneel in reverence,
forehead to floor in prayer.