Today's poem is by Kimiko Hahn
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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