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Ingrid Steblea

Figure A: Intraoral Shotgun Wound

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--from An Illustrated Guide to Death Investigation

For the rest of her life
she transmogrifies it,
changing horror
into harmlessness,
a metaphor

Not a man with his head
blown off, obliterated.

That could have been anything.

Something so formless
begs a form; a ghost sheet
draping itself
over an abandoned chair.

She chose orchids.
Scarlets and golds,
splayed petal and sepal,
glisten and ganglion.

Stuttering she mutters,
bledred and flowerfellow.
She deconstructs,
an armor of imagery:
that fawn stalk
the stem
bearing aloft
the bloom's
heavy oddness.

Orchid, poor kid.
That slight shelf not
what's left of a chin,
but the silken lip
for a bee landing.

Those gleaming shards
pollen (not teeth, not bone).

She cups
what she cannot
now unknow
in her palm,
an evil seed:
the body's jape
and gimcrack,
how final the ending.

In the dark
she holds her breath
so as not to blow away.

The Honey Eater

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"Neither honey nor bee for me." --Sappho

You will eat nothing now but honey, scooping it from the jar
on fingerpoint, licking dripping syrup from your wrist.
You're out till all hours telling the bees the gossip
so they won't abandon their hives. Don't you know the cost?

Such sweetness is death. This hunger won't be mollified.
Ask the treasure-seekers dipping their bread into the tomb's sealed cruse
and finding the coiled casing of the mummified child, her golden lips
set in immortal sulk. Crack the comb, a sticky wedge for each compass point,

each hexagonal well a sepulcher. They line up to be mellified, elderly
Arabians softening over a hundred years into honey candies,
confections for the sick to suck. Darling. No matter how you strive,
you cannot become the nodding head of clover, the moss-draped

tupelo bloom. You can't brother John the Baptist. Picture
Dracula's head lopped off, dropped in a cask of it, shipped off,
an offering to the Sultan. That's the world, love. No such thing
as sweetness now against a bitter hereafter. We're none of us pure.

None of us holy. Devouring me won't dissolve the darkness,
won't absolve the sins you've conceived. Lay in your gold, beloved;
sit cross-legged before your buzzing altar, the sun your heavy mantle,
star thistle bowing in the slight breeze, and your expectant tongue.

Pillar of Mercy. Pillar of Severity. You and I, we will eat the apple
together with the honey, lucifer-light, lucifer-dark; we two, renewed.

The Cheshire Cat Speaks to Alice

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You little bit of British frippery. You blue morsel, you jot.
The way you waltz into our woods like you own the place
already, flag behind your back and your fingers crossed.

Always demanding answers, as if the drop that brought you here
could be undropped, babes but a pip in the womb again, ships
returned to their shores again, the new worlds unfound again.

Alice with your chalice, too tall, too small; there's madness
in you. I tried to warn you, hanging the crescent of my jaw's moon
from the branch. How do you like our queen now, pretty driblet,
her thunder and bleeding heart, swinging her damocles blade?

You descend with your scrolled maps and sextant, coveting
improbable baubles to prison under glass, cupping death
in your white hand. Play your march-and-conquer games,
trinket, stamp your foot; you cannot dismiss us
as but a pack of cards forever. We are sharpening
our spades. Swinging our clubs. Do not reach out
to stroke this native son. I will carve
your bones into matchsticks. This wonderland jungle
is lethal with eyes.

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