Maryfrances Wagner The Dead Don't Hear the Songs

Studies into human decomposition help answer

four questions: who is the victim, how did the victim

die, where and when did the victim die?

~ Arpad Vass

On the lawn of the Oak Ridge Research Facility,

beneath canopies of trees and unfazed squirrels,

cadavers finish their death in an outdoor natural

setting with the help of forensic scientist,

Arpad Vass. At first, Vass turned them

face down, but he’s long since hardened

to self digestion. The haciendas move

in a nice rice waltz below the surface of frenzied

fat eating. When he explains decay, he prefers

hacienda instead of maggots, skin slippage,

or gloving for when skin disembarks

from a hand. Bacteria colonies swell and canoe

through the body of food goo into bloat

until the body collapses into itself, seeps

into soil, and offers over 400 body vapors.

The vapors help identify clandestine burials,

so Voss wants to add a fourth mortis to algor,

rigor, and livor: odor mortis. The dead don’t mind

the stench and the way it stays with you,

sometimes for months, or the Rice Krispie sound

of feeding maggots. Thrashers and warblers

stick around for blowflies and carrion beetles,

though it’s doubtful the dead hear their songs.

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