The Hired Mourners

We’re not
the same women
who wash the corpse—
those ones apart,
those midwives.
The real labor
is ours.

Because our normal
round is tight
& full of purpose
we command the highest price
& what you take
for grief could never
be feigned—

it’s another
kind of breathing,
thicker, a long
braid of cries
stronger than prayer.
Coming straight
from the circle of
our bodies,
backs arched
or bowed, hair
singing like whips,
arms like lightning
returning to
the sky, our value
to the living
wholly discounted

that the honored dead
might cross
beyond all hunger,
toward distant mountains


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