NaPoMo 13 – Taharah


Once you have washed the dead you cannot unwash
the knowing — how scars, decades old, grow dull but don’t 
grow soft how ports and catheters leak and seep how liquids clear or 
cloudy or yellow may be discarded but liquids red or pink are part
of the life of the body and must be added to the bag for burial, a myth
I do not believe About the resurrection of the body shaping a ritual 
I faithfully  follow which is hardly a contradiction for what of death
is rational? What brain can comprehend the moment 
of its own end?

In the basement of this funeral home on this table where we
operate the question of life or death has been resolved so we
who never have to hold out hope can know surgery for the trauma
to the body that it is and worry only about how to clean up in its
bloody weeping seeping stitched up wake. Which bandages do we 
dare remove which tape can be untaped which stitches must we
the Washers not wash for fear of what might flow?

Yet what we do now is so barely different, in the basement
of death or death decisions. We study the body what it can take
and what it cannot. Our judgments follow preserving only the body’s
dignity, a luxury of our location in the American production line between healthy and dead. And after we wash and dry and bless
we dress the body in white linen garments, clothes
whose seams are loosely stitched for they will never have to hold
up to the stresses of serving the living, pants with leg
bottoms sewn shut, with a belt of fragile fraying cloth tied
in a knot so loose a single breath in and out would be 
its undoing, a shirt so large and open so low it refuses to hide
the violent slice down the length of this chest,
still flecked with blood, too delicate to wash, the surgical threads loosely stitched for they will never have to hold up to
the stresses of serving the living, tied off in knots so loose
a single breath in and out would have been their undoing,
and finally the long kittle tunic, mercifully shut
so I no longer have to see the slice, the seams, the broken heart behind the fragility of the knots,
and the closing of the covering  of the linen sheet, the final
bandaging of the soul, the mark of the end of our procedure.

Tahorah hi / she is pure
Tahor hu  / he is pure
Tahorim / we are pure


2 thoughts on “NaPoMo 13 – Taharah

  1. Thanks, Rachel! It still needs a lot of work, but it is the closest I’ve come yet to catching the power of both the emotional and physical experience of doing taharah.

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