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Today's poem is by Kimiko Hahn

Like Lavrinia

Like Lavrinia Merli, in 1890 in Mojola, Mantua,
expired from hysteria and placed in a vault

on Thursday, July 3rd, where she regained consciousness,
tore at the graves clothes her peasant husband had just

smoothed around her seven-month pregnant belly,
and where she turned over and gave birth

but was not discovered until Saturday—
both mother and newborn then really dead;

like George Hefdecker of Erie, Pennsylvania,
a farmer, who upon suffering a heart attack in 1889,

was temporarily buried until the purchase of a plot
and was unearthed four days later

with his fingers so bitten off his hands no longer looked human;

like Mr. Oppelt, a wealthy manufacturer in Rudenberg
whose vault, unsealed fifteen years after his death,

was found to contain a skeleton
seated in the corner, the coffin lid off;

like the gendarme in 1889, dead-drunk on potato brandy,
whose banging in the coffin caused the sexton to bore holes

though the Frenchman had by them mutilated his head
in an effort to burst through and was fully deceased;

like the begger turned up frozen

in a German village in 1807 and buried
only to be disinterred when a watchman detected

lamentations from the grave

although by that time he had indeed suffocated;
like them, yes, the air about my body dead

even in this abrupt consciousness.

                         * * *

He sips his instant coffee black
and turns on 1010 WINS.

The apartment is in back of a storefront.
Our bedroom in the storefront is so drafty

we sleep in layers of sweats
and stuff old towels in window cracks.

The neighborhood kids piss under the door.
But it isn't the furniture or the boys

that keeps me from opening my eyes.
Not the traffic update or Dow Jones. Not even

that man setting his cup down on the counter

to whack a mouse with a broom. If
I press my ear to the pillow

I can mistake my pulse for awareness.
It's the light even when the lights are off.

                         * * *

He closes the door on the newly hung wallpaper

and the dishes soaking in sudsy gray gravy
for his nightly walk down Broadway

communing with black hookers and white junkies.

He is looking for oxygen. I am the wife

under the fluorescent bathroom light

tweezing each hair around my sex.

It vaguely hurts. It reminds me that feeling
is not what I will get from him. It kills time

until "Miami Vice." Afterwards
the infant daughter will wake just as we lie down

to turn in for that compromise called sleep.

                         * * *

There are several reported happy endings.
Like the farm wife, Mrs. Sarseville, in 1891

who, while milking cows, saw beneath the floorboards

a nest of snakes and fell to the ground

then presumed dead by her physician and loved ones
until she sat upright in her coffin.

Her daughter led the woman to the breakfast table
where she ate heartily. Ah!

It is amazing they are ever found ever.



Copyright © 2002 Kamiko Hahn All rights reserved
from The Kenyon Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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