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Open Casket

Ron Charach
From:   The Lancet.


She presides over the red-carpeted parlour,
reinforced by her five devoted sisters
who pass around photos from better days.

The bearded doctor, a guest of her sister Michelle,
feels pale, his own tradition frowning
on preserving the husk, on efforts to transform
our final stony paste into a figure from a wax museum.

"Would you like to come see Nadine?"

He demurs, but steps forward, having never met her in life,
this remarkable lawyer.
Spreading cancer took four years to vanquish
her cantankerous drive to remain,
her bones crumbling, iron rods reinforcing hips,
and then neck.

The spectre in lipstick and cropped hair,
flat-chested without prostheses,
seems asleep in her eternal dress-suit
beneath elegant white flowers.
He considers lifting her thin wrist,
her fingers gloved by a second skin.

"Nadine fancied herself an athlete,"
whispers the oldest sister, Marianne.
"She insisted we blend for her those carrot drinks
till the end, and we were happy to.
Once she learned how to walk again,
we couldn't keep her away from her gardening.
She may have needed a walker,
but she surfed the net and planned the family vacations.
Finally she dropped, after a fall
from her bed during a dream."

As they turn, Michelle takes his arm.
"I'm not sure," he says, "about such open display."

"We can see her, touch her. Kiss.
We can feel her gone."

A child hesitates, touches her mother's shoulder
with reverence, then dashes off
to keep up with her cousins.



Ron Charach's works copyright © to the author.


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