Strange Things by Duriel E. Harris

      “We have rooms in ourselves.   Most of them we have not visited yet.    Forgotten rooms.
      From time to time we can find the passage.  We find strange things. . .old phonographs, 
pictures, books. . .they belong to us, but it is the first time we have found them.”
                                                                                                                        —Haruki Murakami


A wall, a paint-thickened hatch I open
Dumbwaiter at the ready
In it, darkness, shaped like a feather

And the heated thing not yet dead
And dry water and fuel and ashes for milk

In half light, I come upon the body: slender
Mud brown, shorn scalp, quieted and steady; lifted
From a formalin bath and laid in the cool room

A blue glow coils along its length
The perimeter of pleasure
Shrunk within inches of the skin
Nesting as if still warm

A freshly laundered medical gown drapes
In soft folds across the buttocks
And thin, cotton white anklets shield
The narrow twisted feet

From the nape, it is a girl, tinged blue, face down
On textured plastic sheeting that would smother breath

Inside the open bag, above the open lid
Memory: a memory, an image superimposed
A clean cut

Down the midline and three transverse incisions
The precise blade nicking bits of fat, vibrant
Sticky yellow waste in a steel tub

Latex fingers, blunt latex hands pulling
Skin away from muscle
The heavy flaps reflected back
From the midline to reveal

The light is rubbery and would bounce along the spine
But the body is closed now

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Contributor Notes

Duriel E. Harris is the author of two print collections Drag and Amnesiac: Poems, and Speleology, a video collaboration with artist Scott Rankin. A co-founder of the avant-garde poetry/performance trio The Black Took Collective and Poetry Editor for Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora, Harris holds degrees from Yale and NYU, and a PhD from the University of Illinois. A MacDowell and Millay Colony fellow, Harris has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Cave Canem Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.  Her work has appeared in numerous venues including Mandorla, The &Now Awards, Ploughshares, Troubling the Line, and The Best of Fence and has been translated into Polish, German, and Spanish. Current projects include the sound compilation “Black Magic” (Asian Improv Records) and Thingification—a one-woman show. Harris is an associate professor of English at Illinois State University where she teaches creative writing, literature and poetics. (