Will Cordeiro: Skins

Dorian Corey was a drag performer featured in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. After Corey’s death, police discovered the body of Robert Whorley among his belongings.

Buddy, this body’s rotten 
outside in. Man, the stink! 
Who could’ve forgotten 
it, mummied-up in shrink 
wrap and a garment bag 
in the walk-in closet
of New York’s oldest drag 
queen, where someone tossed it?  
The detectives were sent 
to look for a vampire  
suit, claiming they never meant  
to rummage into a fire  
sale of the slum’s faux gaud  
and fab gowns, self-fashioned  
shifts and trappings, the haut  
couture and flaming, smashing  
spools of tulle. They uncovered  
this secret of a sacred  
monster (scam artist, lover,  
pimp?) sundered wholly naked  
of most identifying tags:  
a cocoon that’s mothballed  
all but the barest tat,  
as the innards dissolved  
and even the bone-hard  
core had been eaten out  
by more than just its heart.  
Shadows beyond a doubt,  
I’ve now unpeeled a print 
as fragile as a damsel- 
fly wing. The evidence 
of nervous fascicles 
has been stripped, slowly teased 
from subcutaneous 
tissue in this case. Greased, 
with practiced ease, I press 
the rolled pinpricks across 
my own gloved fingertips 
I’ve swathed with inky gloss: 
such whorls as I’ve encrypted. 
The details of my technique, 
you understand, I can’t 
reveal; they might be leaked 
and give some thief a hand. 
Following the slightest threads 
discovering who’d been 
the perp, any light I shed  
saves my skin by thickening  
the plot. Who doesn’t burn 
for justice—one swift cut 
into the flesh, I’ll turn 
this body open, shut;  
the mask we all affect  
comes off in death and if  
we murder to dissect,  
to dress well is to live


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