Portrait of D17: Female, 37 Years Old

In Phnom Penh’s museum, the skulls are stacked
in aquarium tanks: grim toys for hooks to ply
free from the rubble. Here, each one gets a tag,
a mount, a photograph to suggest a life,
perhaps a name, might be envisioned. Yet I’m
more moved by what’s anonymous, past; imagine
fields of faces sunken with decay, eyes
jellied in their sockets, heel meats bruised,
bloated in the rain—
                                        Perhaps the skulls prefer
a lack of names as, scrubbed of self and skin,
they’re trauma’s best witnesses: fused
by time and pain to one crisis, never
to be separated. Lost as men, they become event.
in this, they achieve a terrible transcendence.
 

Paisley Rekdal, "Portrait of D17: Female, 37 Years Old" from Imaginary Vessels. Copyright © 2016 by Paisley Rekdal.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.
Source: Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
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