–After Rainier Maria Rilke
The washers have lived with death
as they have with the lamp,
the flame and the dark,
the nameless rinsing of limbs,
the even more unnameable nameless.
without histories relative to them.
Their sponges dipped the water
then the silent throat,
trickled rivulets on their faces,
waiting for it to absorb,
to convince themselves more than anything
that the body no longer thirsted.
They only stopped their toil
to turn their head to cough.
The older ones unclenched
the hands of the dead
that refused their final repose.
Only their shadows
jerked the quiet walls,
the net of silent life
extinguishing to last existence
that ignored their shrugs
as the last now antiseptic corpse
was finished and the window shut.