Illustration by Sarah Hartholt

Life is one long orgasm
One stark seizing of the body
Someone shitting loudly in the next stall
Someone lying frighteningly serene in a white room
A purple vein at your mother’s temple
And each sweaty handshake you have offered in this one-room existence
That you have built like a horse collecting flies on its eyelashes
Has been regarded by the youthful portraitures on the walls.
Each decade the paintings have become more conspicuous,
Harshly accusatory,
Because the figures are aging backwards
Seeping from their frames into the carpet
From aspirations to infants.
Their age makes a mockery of your mortality
Of your fingernails that bend now so easily backwards
And many years later
With an old forgotten womb
In a room your children deemed acceptable
You stand quite crooked in a shadow-land
Of white eyelet and catheters
Of cotton printed nighties
And worn leather skins that smell of soft baby powder, and urine and soup du jour
Violently close to the funeral home in a strange, pale, thin dystopia
You stare almost blind from behind your cataracts into the night
At nothing in particular, small flashes of light
And for six seconds your quiet silhouette is seen by a girl on a city bus
But you are beyond understanding
You are an ice cream parlour she has never been to
You are a bad smell she’s never suffered
You are a bed she’s never slept in
You are a drool spot on someone else’s pillowcase
You are a grocery bag in the city
And the children in the frames all gather
With their many vacant eyes
To sit with you as you teach them with practiced patience how to count
With the ticking of the small metal clock
With the pulse of the LED light on the VCR
With the rolls of your stomach over your panty line
One of nine final acts your body will make of peaceful defiance
As it counts down.