The Man in the Vat of Honey

(First appeared in Press, Issue 2, Fall 1996; and is also in The Soup of Something Missing.)

The Man in the Vat of Honey

The nurse sat in the waiting room writing

to her sister. In a small and glorious handwriting

she wrote that she hadn’t yet found a husband

among the injured men; and she was disappointed,

a sailor she liked drowned when his ship broke apart

in heavy winds. His body was now held

in a tall vat of honey behind the clinic. This was the way

corpses were kept during monsoons when the ground

was too thick with water for burials. She imagined him

sticky-sweet and folded at the bottom of the vat

as he might have looked on the ocean floor before his body,

released of fear and breath, ascended. She once sat

with her ear against the vat, hoping to hear what the dead say

to themselves, waiting as she would wait for the ground to dry.

But the only sounds were from alley cats stretched

across the lid, their coarse tongues licking the dried honey.