In Which a Funeral Director Prepares for His Nine Hundred and Twenty-First Cremation
A last pack of masks has been torn open this morning
and no one knows when another
consignment would arrive.
Before now, the embalmer had sighed and said:
we hit the reset button soon, when the lasts
of these protective clothing are used up,
with (un)used garbage bags in the place
of disposable overalls
or silk handkerchiefs for face masks,
or cellophane bags for surgical gloves.
But this isn’t happening today, instead
two dozen spaced lines of guests
await their beloved, six feet apart,
outside the makeshift tent morgues ─
this microscopic name having redefined
even how the living mourn their dead
for this means a journey to a last resting place
bereft of cortège
and only a gurney for companionship.
Soon, nightfall would descend
like a dreaded prophecy,
the rains would come in their time,
thick and surging, and the sun
would advance daily, circling the sky
in lazy degrees over the hills, homebound
and flowers would bloom in early spring
as though the world
would ever remain the same after now.
But not here, not for the custodian of bodies
who readies his gloves for yet another session,
taking great care to isolate afterwards,
from the dripping love of a wife
and the waiting warmth in a daughter’s hug
after long stretches of sleepless nights.
By Chisom Okafor
Chisom Okafor is a Nigerian poet and Nutritionist, who was shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Prize in 2019. He edited 20:35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and presently works as Chapbook editor for Libretto Magazine.