partial litany for the dead

“You must see how this could be you…” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness”

the boy reviewing for exams
to be a seaman—

the young woman saving for a trip abroad
to see her favorite band—

the honor student who’d just made
her family proud after graduation—

the grieving brother waiting for a ride
home on a street corner—

the man at lunch with his five-
year-old granddaughter on his knee—

that little girl who waited
afternoons for a simple treat after school—

but with each day this list grows longer
than the language that can be mustered here—

and those with no name,
those with no one to claim them

lie in the back of a morgue,
in a pool filled with formaldehyde

and, it is said, mixed with chamomile
to mask the stench of death

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