Journal of Writing & Environment

University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Even a dead man is alive in his decomposing.

His body expands with its own gas,


a strange dome rising in the meadow, home

to swarms of blow flies crawling neighborly


along pools of bruises. The next generation plumbs

nostrils, ears, an unhealed cut and eventually the anus


before rove beetles arrive to poke holes, open

a new route to the stomach. The exhaust of all that


industry is a subtle deflation, fouling the air, but

the blow flies stay – there’s still plenty of heart to digest, plenty


of lung beneath the sternum even with the ensign flies

and clown bugs moving in. They’re all too busy to mind


how the ants strip muscle from every sinew, carry off a lobe of liver then

come back for the sinews, too. The broad, curving hollow of a hipbone


dries white in the sun, a new monument to progress that signals the place

to empty – exposed bones and teeth aren’t quite enough to live on,


so what’s left gets abandoned to the centipedes. Still, this body’s

former border can be read in how the ground rises,


how the grass thickens there and shines in the rain.