i’m interested in death rituals.

maybe that’s a weird thing to say.

when i say interested i mean,

i’ve compiled a list.

on it are mourning practices

gathered across time & continents

it’s long & oddly comforting

how no one knows a damn thing

about what follows. i wont

share it with you, only say,

evidence suggests neanderthals

were the first hominids to bury

their dead. also, i’ll say they

didn’t possess a written language,

which points toward internment

as a form of document. the body

is ink in the earth. the grave marker,

a gathering together of text.

the first written languages were

pictorial & marked the movement

of goods between peoples.

i don’t know what to do with that

but pretend death’s a similar kind

of commerce: face stamped

into a coin, what’s left of the body

in the belly of a bird, two lines

that meet to make a man

alive again on paper. i know i know,

ashes to ashes & all that dust

to irreverent dust. i know everyone

i love who’s dead didn’t actually

become the poem i wrote about them.

their breath a caught fathered

object thrashing in the white space

between letters. contrary to popular

belief elephants don’t actually bury

their dead lacking the necessary

shovels & opposable thumbs rather

they are known to throw leaves

& dirt upon the deceased & this

is a kind of language. often the tusks

from dead elephants are scrivened

into the shapes of smaller elephants

& sold to travelers who might display

this tragic simulacrum upon

their mantel as a symbol of power

& of passage. when i’m gone, make me again

from my hair. carry me with you

a small book in your pocket.

More by sam sax

Doctrine

the time for nuance is over
i argue over breakfast
explaining how it’s oft used
to confuse dissent—knife
through my poached egg.
politicized work made all yolky,
easy to consume & forget.
i dab with the toasted bread
agitation & propaganda i rant
is the only just path for artists
gesturing with my utensils
heavenward. i’ve said a lot
of things which in retrospect
would’ve been better
had i kept my mouth shut.
i once said something to a friend
i won’t repeat here
& now she’s no longer my friend.
i'll never forget what her eyes did
as i finished speaking
stones in a bucket.
words have consequences
they’re both material & reveal
the spirit that speaks them.
what i meant over breakfast
is the time’s too urgent for work
that doesn’t have blood in it.
what i meant is insurgency
is our birthright, that nuance
comes from the french meaning
to shade—why another painting
of a lake when there’s so much
rage boiling outside the canvas?
what does it mean i don’t mean
what i say when i say it? i don’t know
what i mean. silence is golden
& gold’s the standard measurement
for capital. the golden rule is do
unto others as you would have them
do unto you. but what when they do
you ugly first as they always
seem to? i finish my coffee &
it’s political whether i want it
to be or not.

Trans Orbital Lobotomy

in through the eye
 
device adapted from an ice pick
 
the space between the cornea & tear duct tears
 
little incisions along the frontal lobe
 
you open the grapefruit 
 
you open the grape
 
you open 
 
in the '50s there were tens of thousands performed in the states 
 
sour mess. sour mash. mashup. macerate.
 
cut a rug. jitterbug. wonder drug. gutter. tug. suture. lacerate. 
 
erasure. erase. raced. deadened. dead end. 
 
end. replace. 
 
once a doctor removed the frontal lobe of an aggressive ape
 
what followed was a column of ants
 
your relative made new & easy to manage
 
a miracle 
 

Post-Diagnosis

REASON                /               UNREASON

 

the brain is                 

           an unlit synagogue 

easily charted               

           in dark waters

using machines            

           it can baffle faith

& therapy        

           it can asphyxiate

don’t worry                 

           the drowning dogs

your pretty head          

           painted for the gods

it’s simple                    

           to rage & riot & rot

to manage                    

           the vacant parking lot

with the appropriate     

           knives   do what some

medicines                    

           can not