My birthright I have traded for a petal dress
and a summer eulogy. I have pawned my soul
for this opal ring, the color of a pale, taxidermied eye.
If I could carry calla lilies on my shoulder once more
like an umbrella in daylight, I would lean them
on the cemetery gate and sleep until the groundskeeper found me.
For some of us, beauty is carcinoma.
The saint’s stigmata is god’s rose, bestowed
for forgoing a human lover, who will, of course, die.
I died last year. My mother made her tears into crystal
earrings and clipped them to my ears. “Son, you will
pay for your sin,” my father spoke from his throne of glass.
Stars burn a sharp, white nacre until they evaporate.
The moon’s flamingo unfolds her iodine wings over the broken city.
My necropolis. My teeth are the fruit of your olive tree.
"Epitaph X" first appeared in Horror Vacui, published by Sarabande Books, 2006. © Thomas Heise.