Alfred Corn
And Then I Saw
My body, laid out on a marble slab.
Naked but for a linen sheet tucked under
Its chin, as though to keep the patient warm.


A solemn band approached; identified
The late departed with what looked like mingled
Relief, mild satisfaction, and bereavement.


One of them took away an arm—the right,
Was it?—and loped off with a spring in his step.
Which prompted others to do likewise: here


A shoulder (suitable for crying on),
there a foot, there an eye and there an ear.
Plump already, one scooped out the belly.


Just who you’d imagine claimed the head.
Not the one I hoped tugged loose a rib.
Some, by no means all, I knew as friends;


But felt no bitterness, instead, acceptance.
This, while watching their several withdrawals,
Travelers moving farther out and deeper


Into the ringing distance—who all began
To flourish, somehow more intently themselves
Than they had earlier resolved to be.


Was glad of that, despite a fit of shivers
(Simple human nature still presiding)
When I took note of the rummage that remained,


Wishing a greener plot had been marked out
For what had breathed with so much spark and promise.
My turn, then, to come forward for a closer


Look; and, since no one else had carried off
That steady, flexibly strung pump at rest
Beneath the sternum, take it for my own,


Sensing its mute but anchored trust that parts
Lucky for others would befriend as well—
Oh love—even the heir that flesh once named.
Found In Volume 27, No. 06
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Alfred Corn
About the Author

Alfred Corn has published ten books of poems, including Stake: Selected Poems, 1972-1992 (1999) and, most recently, Unions (2014). He has also published a novel, Part of His Story, a study of prosody The Poem’s Heartbeat, and two collections of critical essays, The Metamorphoses of Metaphor and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007