And Then I Saw

By Alfred Corn b. 1943 Alfred Corn
My body, laid out on a marble slab.
Naked but for a linen sheet tucked under
Its chin, as though to keep the patient warm.

A solemn band approached; identified
The late departed with what looked like mingled
Relief, mild satisfaction, and bereavement.

One of them took away an arm—the right,
Was it?—and loped off with a spring in his step.
Which prompted others to do likewise: here

A shoulder (suitable for crying on),
there a foot, there an eye and there an ear.
Plump already, one scooped out the belly.

Just who you’d imagine claimed the head.
Not the one I hoped tugged loose a rib.
Some, by no means all, I knew as friends;

But felt no bitterness, instead, acceptance.
This, while watching their several withdrawals,
Travelers moving farther out and deeper

Into the ringing distance—who all began
To flourish, somehow more intently themselves
Than they had earlier resolved to be.

Was glad of that, despite a fit of shivers
(Simple human nature still presiding)
When I took note of the rummage that remained,

Wishing a greener plot had been marked out
For what had breathed with so much spark and promise.
My turn, then, to come forward for a closer

Look; and, since no one else had carried off
That steady, flexibly strung pump at rest
Beneath the sternum, take it for my own,

Sensing its mute but anchored trust that parts
Lucky for others would befriend as well—
Oh love—even the heir that flesh once named.

Alfred Corn, “And Then I Saw” from Contradictions. Copyright © 2002 by Alfred Corn. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Contradictions: Poems (2002)

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Poet Alfred Corn b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Death, The Body, Living, Nature

 Alfred  Corn


American author Alfred Corn has published ten books of poems, including Stake: Selected Poems, 1972-1992 (1999) and, most recently, Unions (2014). He has also published a novel, Part of His Story, a study of prosody The Poem’s Heartbeat, and two collections of critical essays, The Metamorphoses of Metaphor and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007. His second novel, Miranda’s Book, will be published in late 2014.

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SUBJECT Death, The Body, Living, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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