In The Mortuary

by Craig Raine

Like soft cheeses they bulge
sideways on marble slabs,

helpless, waiting to be washed.
Cotton wool clings in wisps

to the orderly’s tongs,
its creaking purpose done…

He calls the woman, ‘Missus’,
an abacus of perspiration

on his brow despite the cold.
And she is the usual woman –

two terra cotta nipples
like patches from a cycle kit,

puzzled knees, finely
crumpled skin around the eyes,

and her stomach like a watermark
held up to the light.

Distinguishing marks: none.
Colour of eyes: closed.

Somewhere, inside an envelope
inside a drawer, her spectacles…

Somewhere else, not here, someone
knows her hair is parted wrongly

and cares about these cobwebs
in the corners of her body.