The city of tremors and toxins can’t have enough parlors waiting patiently along
the street like the bald-eyed scavengers who profit from the art of waste removal.
How fortunate you are to be betrothed to the mortician’s protégé. On Thursday nights
he drives up with the hearse, and while the dogs panic and every doña checks the mirrors
for the reaper’s breath, you dab perfume inside that soft warm space behind your bra.
There, where the armpit meets the breast, your lover yearns to find the scent of violets.
You are all discoveries tonight: inside you shoe, Sor Juana’s bill; a flea bite pimpled
on the knuckle of your thumb; a sickle-shaped scratch at your ankle—the swift broom
accident that greeted you this morning when you thought you heard a voice behind
the drapes. The voice itself didn’t frighten you as much as the fact that you replied.
“Your name,” the voice demanded. “Marisol,” you said, shocked immediately
at how easily you gave it away, your mouth the owl’s niche after the tender hatchling
of your tongue plopped out. Sound is death because it’s irretrievable and every time
you speak you die a little more. And you offered up your most precious word.
As you rub that wound with rosemary oil you mourn the pain slowly vanishing.
It is one more possession gone. O the devastating truth of loss: O woman,
you know you have been parting with yourself since birth. Your baby teeth,
your baby fat, that babble and lisp, all gone. Every third month two inches of your hair
disappears, every second week the tips of fingernails. Plucked eyebrows, skin scabs,
saliva, menstrual blood—you are losing pieces of your body constantly; nothing’s yours
exclusively. Look at your hands. They belong to the broom. Your feet to your shoes.
The legs are the property of destinations. Your womb of your progeny. Your face
takes shape only when your bedroom gives you permission to emerge into the world.
Whatever parts are left you offer to your lover on a pastry dish. How he pecks pecks,
that hungry crow, on the morsels of your flesh. How he devours you, and every bite
and nibble leaves a little less to call your own. You’re mine, he says, and means it.
Go to him, says the bedroom. Take his hand, says the broom. In the end, all of you
belong to this mortician. And he knows this, presumptuous bastard, by how he
holds his fingers out and guides your way into the narrow front seat of his hearse.