To her he is Tut, burnished in ambergris, a royal, perfumed marvel,
so when he nicks his fingertip, when he whispers he is dying, of AIDS,
when he twines the bandage around the cut, the intense crinkle of it buries
her alive. Before her, walls of catacombs parade preserved images of afflicted
men--half-shaved, scabbed, pale, emaciated. Each of them, alone. Backs
bend under invisible slabs of disease, fingers excavate pills from papyrus
cups. There is glyphic laughter, crying, coughing. No dangle of grapes,
no palm fans, no solar bursts or baptismal floods, no garden vines snaked
around ankles, only the dressing of his insignificant wound. Please be
there, he says, at the end. She offers a platter laden with late-season
figs, pomegranates, mint. Stuff your skull with sweetmeats, she thinks,
measuring him like a tailor, her fingers massaging the thin selvage from
the roll of gauze.
Copyright 2001, Tamara Kaye Sellman
Tamara Kaye Sellman is a Bainbridge Island writer and the editor of Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism. She has published poetry in small journals. The Crescent Review will publish her latest work, a prose poem (or flash fiction?) entitled FLIGHT, in its November 2000 issue.