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The Politics of Death

James Luchte


i can't set up a funeral pyre
in my back yard, 
next to the swingset
not for any fears 
of child endangerment
but simply for the fact
that it is illegal
to set up a funeral
pyre in my back yard
i promise i will 
burn only myself
on a brilliant day
i will set up the
pyre & administer
the appropriate
psychedelic sedatives
transfigured into that
beyond - i will kiss you
in the wind across your face
on my way to the space of sky
better than setting on a slanted
porcelein table where your blood 
flows down ductile grooves at the 
edges of the table down the drain 
& out from pipes infiltrate an 
extensive sewer network tunnels
drainage ducts pipes only indiana
has laws against dumping blood 
into the sewers - into our water
rats eat the blood, blood mixes
with chemicals etc..., so that's 
better than burning myself on 
a funeral pyre or having my corpse 
thrown on a dung heap or cast in 
a forest in the manner of Heraclitus 
the Vikings burned their dead, 
the Indians still do it  
the "greeks" did it - the 
Egyptians did it differently
"mummification" a process 
of preparing the sacred
body for the next life - in which
sacred herbs were placed in a body
from which major organ systems were 
separated & placed in conopic jars
every aspect of this death ritual
possesses a symbolic significance
this is displaced in the decadent
West via green embalming & coffin 
comfort - a body comes in & is laid 
naked on the porcelein operating table
the body is hosed down, water runs
down the gulley ways on each 
edge of the slanted table
the embalmer cuts the neck 
of the body isolating a vein
in which he inserts a nozzle
which via a hose is connected
to a machine which pumps in a 
cleansing rinse - the body
bulges to twice its size 
with the fluid intake 
until the pressure is released
the liquid flows & takes all
the blood & lymphatic fluid away
down the slanted porcelein table
down the drain & out into the sewers
(except in Indiana where they mandate the 
chemical decomposition of blood by-products)
once the body fluids are drained, greem
embalming fluid is pumped in through
the neck with the aesthetic effect
that the skin of the body turns pink
hairdressers are brought in order to
approximate the hairdoo in the picture
supplied by the bereaved - after the
hairdoo & the makeup job - the face
hands & other extremities will be
sprayed with pressurized silicon
death is orchestrated in a ritual
"Which body are you here to see?"
the body is dressed in the clothes
supplied by the relatives - it is
difficult to put panties on an
eighty year old woman who, since
she is dead, is afflicted 
with riga mortis - but, once
the clothes are on her body is
placed in the coffin that the
family picked out from a showroom
People walk in, sign the book
comment on the aesthetic preservation
of rotting meat - a simulacrum of life
even the land is taken over by this
fetishism of the dead body - miles
upon miles of tombstones - wasteland
better to burn bodies on the Ghanges
return to the sky, the stars, not to
sizzle up in some useless, vain coffin
like someday suddenly everybody will
rise out of their coffins & inaugurate
the Kingdom of Heaven - the problem
is that this hope is rather recent
there have been other examples of hope
even a hundred years ago they laid 
the body on the dinning room table

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