Washing the Corpses

–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.