By | 15 September 2022

In Caravaggio’s Seven Mercies you see them poking out,
a pair of dead men’s feet, holding place for now—
two small anchors wedging open the door of the light,
though darkness has arrived.

In ‘Quarantine,’ Eavan Boland guides you back in time, See, she says—
the famine dead, look at this woman’s cold feet cradled by her husband
against his chest before both hearts give out to hunger, too much
too little, too tired so cold, but see, this trace, this tenderness
these feet, chest, hands, that they still could (and in which darkness).

After the death of Keats, moulds are cast of his face, his hands, feet,
or at least a hand, at least a foot. The reflection of his dead face is a double,
painted by Severn, as if granting immortality, replicas of the face in plaster
stone, copper, packed in tissues, in boxes, even in present day kept,
sold, stroked, adored as if—
The foot and hand (cold, incapable of grasping) lost, form ghostly outlines,
adumbrating the solidity of absence.

The Tollund Man’s hood is removed by peat, a narrative inscribed by uncanniness—
ropes and knots, his terror all so far removed, as if the past was really a foreign place.
His perfect face, the pillowed lips, the feet, long boned and elegant.
After they find him, they preserve the head but leave the rest to melt back
into the anonymity of decay.

When you died, they wouldn’t let us see any part of you at all.
We had to imagine your face your body transformed.

I would have touched your feet, I swear.
At least a foot, a toe, I would still have loved you

before the night
before the light
crossed over

and you were gone for good.

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