I think it’s the rose
at the crown of the skull
she makes death dainty
with the long head
her skin shed
she propped it up
to model for a painting.
I think it’s that she died in the desert and let herself be found.
I think it’s her loneliness, her white on black. Her duality.
I think it’s the curved teeth
tilted to the left
a bite of the black
that does it.
I think it’s that I like to think about dying
not because I want us to die
but because it makes me feel safe
prepared for an event
marked in pen
on my calendar
a long-standing invitation
most shy away from
when circled in red.
I think it’s the three holes burrowed in her skull
like hands and feet to a cross.
I think that it’s not religious
but religious in the way that everything is
a fake answer to a question
like any object we try to name.
I think it’s the boldness.
I think it’s the shadow that might hide the body
or might not.
I think it’s the curves that open
at the missing eyeballs.
I think it’s how whole it is.
i’m looking at the cow skull carried in the hands of my Georgian friends
as they walk from an abandoned farm deep in the thrush of my family’s property;
someone’s going to bleach it they say
someone’s going to take it home to Brooklyn
and hope they don’t smell the death by their bed.
i’m looking at an invisible body
swallowed by the black, maybe never existing at all
carried out of the sands and most likely mounted
picked to pieces and topped with a floral crown
while we make plans to be stored in tight coffins –
a million bone portraits that’ll never be made.
i need you to understand that i’m protective
that even the dead can glow from an eye
and wear white to a wedding.
i need you to look at it
flinch when the skin is sucked from the bone
flinch when you see how easily it can be broken
flinch when you know the sound of bone in the desert
when the sun bakes life into your name.
Kasia Merrill is a fiction writer based in Maryland. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Fiction International, Breadcrumbs Mag, and The Appalachian Review, and she has been a GRITLit contest honourable mention and a Best of the Net nominee. In 2022, she was selected to be a Peter Taylor fellow for the Kenyon Writer’s Workshop. She is currently at work on her first novel.
The Ekphrastic Review
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