When I was driving to and from an area lake today, I saw many instances of death. A dead puppy by the highway. A dead raccoon next to a country road. A funeral procession that appeared out of nowhere while I was standing in a field watching meadowlarks. Death isn’t easy, ever. “Death by Scaphism” deals with a particular type of death, namely the suffering inflicted by a particularly cruel form of execution. It is both literal and figurative in that it describes a way of dying while also serving as a metaphor for the ways we suffer while still living. This poem first appeared in FRiGG.
Death by Scaphism
To lie bound inside a boat. To have milk and honey
forced into the mouth until insects arrive to feed
on the sweet feces. To have milk and honey poured
over the body. To feel each rolling along the skin —
one like rain, the other like sap — before both
settle on the underside where flesh meets wood.
To have the eyes and ears doused, the genitals
and the anus. To be covered over with a second boat,
the two lashed together. To be set afloat in
a shallow pool. To be left with hands, feet,
and face exposed to the sun, everything between
in perpetual darkness. To be stung. To be bitten.
To become a home for insects. To feel the face
and the ass brim with maggots. To birth a colony
of flies and their descendants. To feel muscle
and fat, organs and excrement, infuse the boat’s
hull. To be fed and doused and set afloat for days
on end. To have no end. To lose track of days.
To forget the offense. To rise above the water,
the body and the boats. To look down on ruin.