SPOTLIGHT: Meditations for the Dead and Dying by Perry Gasteiger

Growing Pains

—after I Sing the Body Electric; Especially When My Power Is Out

Like a snake, I shed the skin

you so graciously shoved me into:

molting this visage

gifted to me in your benevolence,

my body grows too bold

for the mold in which you encase me.

Angry fissures spider-web

over my body in fractured magnificence,

hatching from my porcelain prison

I rise through the wreckage,

jagged edges catching fresh pink skin,

raking flaming valleys filled with shadows

into broken arms, rippling muscles

bulging under tattered limbs

aching to taste freedom from their cells.

My spine stands sharp,

ripping the seams sewn too tight to breathe,

ribs creaking and cracking

as you take me in a few more inches,

thin skin stretched tight across shoulders

painted red with thrown away words:

(mea culpa, mea culpa)

your tongue strikes deep,

but my blood runs deeper,

bursting through lacerations,

pouring forth from my pores;

it drips from my mouth as I scream in release,

waves of pain crashing against delicate flesh

as cruel ecstasy throbs in every nerve:

it hurts to become.

Corpus Corallium

I drag her coral skeleton through the sand,

laying out the pieces phalanx by phalanx,

tibia to femur, vertebrae stacked,

topped with a pockmarked skull;

I pull strands of seaweed from silt beds,

weaving them into her crown,

singing as I place each lock,

braiding seashells and fish bones into her hair;

I reach into the mouth of a great white shark,

rip out its beating heart and watch his brothers

descend upon his bloodied body,

wade back through the waves to place it

lovingly between her ribs,

affix delicate jellyfish tendril veins

watching as life begins to pulse through her;

I watch her rise, dripping in

ocean tears and blood,

reach to her to embrace

that which I had brought to be,

fall to my knees and weep,

sinking into soft sand

as she crawls toward the sea

from which I stole her.


She sinks her teeth into

a tender apricot, sticky-sweet

juice drips down her chin

like rushing waterfalls pouring

into the crevices of her skin,

gathering in lakes and rivers,

sugared and thick with syrupy kisses

and honey soaked bodies.

She tears at bruised flesh

watching bit by bit devoured

by glistening lips longing for more,

to rip from the pit that supple thing

which finds its bed in the suffering

of tender fruit sucked dry,

left husked and spent

in the palms of indulgent hands.

She carefully places the stone

in my open mouth,

seals it with a kiss and watches

roots grow from my toes,

branches crack my ribs,

a canopy burst from my crown

in beautiful becoming,

blooming with tender violence.

She sits beneath the shade of my leaves,

my boughs heavy with unclaimed fruits

waiting for her starving mouth.

She cannot resist

the smell of fresh nectar —

licking her lips as she

reaches up and plucks

another tender apricot.

A Snack in the Sunshine

You lay there asleep under the willow tree,

I hear the carrion birds calling

hungry songs into the dawn,

wretched screeches as they beat their wings

and descend upon your body.

I hear flesh tear from bone like

sweet babes from mothers’ wombs —

my stomach rumbles at your carcass

stripped down to ivory nakedness,

baring itself to the rising sun

the bits not worth scavenging rot

under the hot glare of the day.

I crack a bone and suck the marrow,

the smell of putrid matter fills my nostrils

and I breathe deep, licking my fingers

sitting in the shade of the willow tree —

a child screams and I fall asleep

thinking of you in the fragrant heat.


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