Pre-Six Feet Under: If I Never Sleep
Terri Brown-Davidson

I’m fond of watching TV shows that feature morticians
or “funeral directors,” as they prefer being addressed.
But, when I was ten, there was no Fisher family
for my role models, no crazy Nate or lewd, obsessive Brenda
or gay Dave getting his head beaten in by a rock;
there was, instead, only the single blond boy I craved
whose hands—I imagined—stank and shivered with death,
the family across the street I never actually met
though Blond Boy attended—perfectly expressionless—my school,
his absent father rumored to thread IV’s into corpses.
I had no life then but a rich imagination that, succulent
as my pink and budding breasts, waxed and waned
according to the fantasy I was immersed in,
and it was the boy in that house I was fascinated with,
the slim, buckle-shouldered boy
whose eyes at Warren Wilson Junior High
gleamed so clear and fine I gazed into them
and felt myself falling forward into the large vat of formaldehyde
I imagined their basement possessed, a rubbled concrete room,
perpetually frigid, where the dead were laid out on another
concrete slab, their limbs delicately spread-eagled, their skin
preternaturally pale because all the blood was siphoned out,
I understood, by virtue of a needle and a bottle of embalming fluid.
Ten, I was obsessed with mortality,
The American Way of Death the undercovers-reading
I finagled when my aunt
tumbled face-forward into a drunken sleep on the divan
and I was left alone with my thoughts, which was always
too often for a lonely loser who (insert Old Story here),
lacking friends but possessing five delicately pressing fingers,
loved to conjure herself
spread-eagled on that table, her veins siphoned and then pumped
with the opaque fluid which—for the depressive—
represented a clear perfection,
the beautiful expressionless boy whose name I knew only—
Peter—guiding the liquid in with an elegantly arced wrist
though I witnessed none of his postmortem tenderness,
I’d already been washed away from those final tremors of consciousness,
my brain so lovely, so still and so dead.