Oton Death Mask

(Oton, Iloilo; 1300-1400 A.D.)

They’ve melted and cut
a ribbon of gold

into squares they’ll beat
with mallets to the thinness

of skin— They’ll trim
around the outlines

then lift with pincers to lay
upon the face of the beloved,

pressing upon the mouth
that kissed and doubtless

was kissed warmly in return,
the bridge of the nose

that flared quietly
for the last time

then shut close
in the early dark;

and because the dark
is real now, the two

eyepieces are a blessing—
one over each shaded socket,

medallions hammered to borrow
the sun’s old fire.

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