The first dead man I saw was covered in sand.
Fine grains of sand clung to the clouded surface
of his eyes. His purple lips dusted with sand,
his mouth packed with it. He had drowned and
his body tossed around in the surf for a long time
before we got it out.
I tugged on his wet clothing.
I held his soggy wallet in my cold hands
and picked through it for a driver’s licence;
a name and a face to put with
the dead guy in the yellow bag.
I rolled him over and over again.
I patted his shoulder.
Later, on the autopsy table, I washed his body.
Sand skittered down the stainless steel
and went down the drain hole.
Little ribbons of blood swirled from the mouths
of the wounds on his face and hands.
Like snakes that evaporated in the water, like
songs his body couldn’t stop singing.
He stared, but not at us. Something else
held his attention.
His purple fingers were hard as iron.
I remember plenty of times being in the living room
of some house. Everybody crying, a stunned
kind of silence.
Some piece of news I had brought to them,
a raw deal delivery service.
“Okay, everybody who’s son is still alive, stand up.
Not you, lady. You can sit down.”
It isn’t all bad.
There’s a kind of tenderness. A place
for something maybe approaching love.
This guy I work with said we’re angry;
we hate all these human beings…
He said we got love, we just don’t got
a way to say it…
I remember another guy I pulled out of the water.
I beat him until my hands bled, he
was crying the whole time.
Begging me to stop.