The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 5 no. 2


Angie Estes

Elegy for My Corpse


At dinner you were just getting ready to ask for more—
what was it? Whatever it was, there will be no
more escarole, champagne, potatoes, or butter for you.
Under your shirt a blue tattoo of veins floats
to the surface like cream, the same signature you scrawled
in the family bible at two. Yours was not the large-breasted
thrust of a woman saying I do, but some blueprint
for desire nonetheless.

Up until now you were hardly credible
Despite your daily applause in the shower:
rubbing your palms together, patting
yourself on the back. How I’d love to see you now
in the bathroom mirror, watch your face
tell its story the way a pick
shatters ice on a lake.

I’ll tell you what’s useless: the hinges of lips
flopped like limbs of forgotten marionettes,
the long line that writes but inches
nowhere, while each gullible ear
keeps cupping itself forward.
Why all this concern with depth, when the eyes
have darted off like fish to hold
themselves in the pools below, indistinguishable
from the polished stones.

For all I cared, my heart was free to go on
battering these thin gold temples
with its pulse, to keep pumping
the lungs for another oh.
Listen, old arsenal of dreams I won’t
have to start from, magazine of day-old news,
you’ll never make it without me,
banked fire no whisper will ignite.