Occurrence In Dead City

One day coroners in the Morgue
   of Popes, off
     Gramlin and Trayhurst,

in the swill-gray center of Dead City

began to notice--those lumps of meat in the shapes of
ghosts coming off the street

began to look less different from each other.
A few drawn from their frozen drawers

in storage looked even more identical. Each
          to each,
one man one woman, a kind of

postmortem Adam and Eve. Black male,
aged roughly early thirties,

     high cheekbones;

the female a white brunette, thin lips

and a beauty mark just left off center of her chin.
When they pulled the charts

     of all bodies on hand, they
were amazed. Age and race, height and weight

had been cannibalized almost overnight
into an archetype, in the

     flesh. As fresh bodies

rolled through the double doors, they tracked them.
It took, according to their lights, no matter how dim

three days to a week for their native features to melt away
and reveal the Jane or John Doe lying beneath.

One man and lady killed after the fact, repeatedly.
In a day or two it took to the news
     as a leak,

  so the police provided sketches

of the two in their original state, borne off the faces
of two dozen too many. The result? Some families

requested the exhumation of spouses and children;
and when, like secret potatoes, the coffins

were unburied, the air struck them

as a fact drawing all its strength from a rumor. There

their son or daughter, brother or mother
lay, in various nudes of decomposition,

changed beyond the resemblances that made them.

Newly ruined, the bodies
     face-up to the lights

by car wreck or heart attack or overdose,

changed with the slow-motion wooziness of smoke:
a nose growing lean, lips
       swelling fuller, eyes
migrating a half inch farther apart. When

the bereaved came to the ward to identify them
it was even less than useless. The form

of the problem they loved

       had vanished completely. Had
migrated to the dumb calm of the generic,

one man and woman for everyone. It went
much that way for weeks

until, a month later, the news caught something
even more terrifying by the toe

and held on tightly enough to tag it. A man
in New Poland, on the Northwest Side

had been seen walking out of a Kroger,
followed by one or two

       witnesses of the eye,
then tracked by half the neighborhood

to a brownstone on Fuller. When the police
arrived, he was exactly what they'd found:

   a living specimen. John
Doe, a flawless clone

     or maybe the original
psychopomp of all those copies. The
look from his eyes was terror. It

swam through his body like water. The cops
cut the crowd and took him into custody.

Not a day later a woman in Collin Heights

was pulled off the Blue Line, her dress
and coat torn off her like wrapping paper,

     naked and
begging, carried
by a dozen hands

to the nearest station. Within a half hour
they had an exact match

for the woman who had been taking
so many of their wives' and mothers'

          faces. During
interrogation both ur-corpses

expressed nauseous bewilderment, paranoia
of their own skin. What had they

done to assume the forms of so many? What
were those vanishing likenesses

telling them, that death could remodel
their features to resemble them?

By decree of the state, they were
  thrown on trial,
    put to beg for absolution by a jury.
A verdict came back like an echo

from a resentment on borrowed ears:
    to their own faces
we sentence them. Execution by

lethal mirror. A month later their bodies
went limp on the gurney. And almost

immediately, a postmortem miracle.
In the morgues and newfound graves
    of Dead City

a hundred wayward corpses
were born again.

SUBMIT TO ME (Lydia's Dinners)

                                        Lydia Lunch came
                                        through town promoting
                                                            a cookbook, of all things.
                                                            Best if
                                        cannibal cuisine,
                                                            but no:

                              no humans died for these recipes.
                                         In Richard Kern's

                                         sick eye, breasts
                                         sprouted all over
                               her full body;
                                        the lens spied her
                                        through the vamp

                                        hex of her own
                                        But now she's
                              thirty years older, the final
                                        realization. A
                                        pin-up with porn
                                        brains hooked up
                                        to an electric
                                                            threat of
                                        cackle. The Lower
                                        East Side died and

                                        left us this

                                                            New York--
                                        both arms and
                                        fresh in black, both

                                        legs, which bore
                                        many men between
                                        them. An interview
                              has her speak on pleasure,

                                        but she speaks of
                                        time alone, intro-
                                        the most contemporary
                                        perversion. Her exes
                                        she says will last
                                                            at most

                               two years. I always tell them so,
                                        she says, then
                                        smiles like
                                        broken religion. The
                                        word slut is a
                                        strange one. Means

                                        what? I'm plural?
                                        I want to be as
                                        many people as I
                                                            can touch?
                                        Seriously, what kind
                                        of a toxic deal is
                              that? A lady lives many
                                        lives, so we
                                        shame her? Her

                                        cooking, though,
                              how many could it
                                        possibly feed? A
                                        recipe, after all,
                                                            is only
                                        a suggestion.

KYLE COMA-THOMPSON is author of two collections of short stories, The Lucky Body, and Night In The Sun.