As I enter the morgue, my heart is crushed

between denial and belief. Something in me

speaks that you are not him, the corpse,

though this means searching countless hours more

in the catalogue of the nameless dead.

The door swings shut behind me, ominous

and final, and when my eyes fall flat on the skin,

bleached by the river, I withdraw

and almost faint. Who is this person blunt

and shapeless in this disinfected light, I ask.

Stripped of all marks of identification

as though it were possible to turn someone

into a complete stranger, the body begs

to be known and released. Assessing the features,

deliberately as I would my child’s sleep,

I grow into remembrance: the white polo

and its unmistakable pocket’s margin, the eyes

irreparably swollen and shut forever. And the shoes.

We bought those shoes together, in a mall,

Doc Martens with its trademark soles

which you liked beyond words. I felt the years

rush past behind us, in that moment when we admired

the stitches and leather, keeping just the both of us:

father and son, named even just for that instance.

The whiteness hurts my vision and the walls

collapse on my grief. Will you go far with

the memory of departure, there beyond the line

you can no longer cross, as you try to reach us—

your family on the opposite side—speechless

and barefoot, staggering with every assault of sorrow?

Love in a different light


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