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On Death

When we die
the words we haven’t said yet
turn to bubbles
to inflate the body
and smuggle it from the grave
while the cemetery keeper sleeps.
But we run up against
the stone slab over our bodies,
which refuses to budge.
So we turn
to the insects for help
though we’re not very fond of them;
a worm here,
another there,

and each one gnaws
at one of these words
and leaves nothing
behind— 

nothing
but erasers piling up
to form a skeleton
that comes home from school
each day
with a piece missing.

© Mazen Maarouf. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2014 by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Nathalie Handal. All rights reserved.