Poem 154 ± November 5, 2015

Tamara Kaye Sellman

To her he is Tut burnished in ambergris, a royal,
perfumed marvel, so when he nicks his fingertip,
when he whispers he is dying, of AIDS, when he
twines the bandage around the cut, the intense
crinkle of it buries her alive. Before her, walls of
catacombs parade preserved images of afflicted men—
half-shaved, scabbed, pale, emaciated. Each of them,
alone. Backs bend under invisible slabs of disease,
fingers excavate pills from papyrus cups. There is
glyphic laughter, crying, coughing. No dangle of
grapes, no palm fans, no solar bursts or baptismal
floods, no garden vines snaked around ankles, only
the dressing of his insignificant wound. Please be
there, he says, at the end. She offers a platter laden
with late-season figs, pomegranates, mint. Stuff your
skull with sweetmeats, she thinks, measuring him
like a tailor, her fingers massaging the thin selvage
of the roll of gauze.

Tamara Kaye SellmanTamara Kaye Sellman lives in Bainbridge Island, where she works as a sleep health educator and MS activist. Her poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been published widely and internationally.

This poem was previously published in Switched-on Gutenberg, March 2001