Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2019  Vol. 18 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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While hunting mummies at the British Museum

my daughter asks When someone dies will you
help me make an altar? and I wonder
if she’s made some kind of peace
with the vast incomprehensible

that laps our lives. Between her question
and my Sure there is a long shush-sigh.
Some call this the word, others the lie.
I call it the reason love is laced always

with a stunning sadness. When I was her
age, I buried my pets beneath our side-yard
cypress, sometimes with a favorite toy
or brush, but let’s not dig those bones up,

not here. This mummy, so unlike the cartoon
version she expected, no bandages trailing,
only flesh so long dead it’s shrink-wrapped
unrecognizable, to pelvis, to skull.

When she is older I will make her promise
to bury me naked, unbound. I want to vanish
quick. But right now, she wants to understand
a thing by repetition, even of the dead.

She demands another and another
until there are no bodies left
in this museum. I imagine dirt
dissolving this body that birthed

her. Her hand, still so small
in mine as we try not to lose
each other in the crowd
gathered around the child-

sized mummy. And because I might
be vague about the Tooth Fairy
and Santa, but swore I’d never lie
about the big stuff, I have to say Yes

when she wonders, inevitably,
if she too will die. The next
sarcophagus is empty,
so I myth it with a mummy,

bandaged-wrapped and risen,
then make the promise, that is,
at best, only half mine to keep:
But baby, not for a long, long time.  

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