Martha Serpas

The Morgue is Closed & Pélican Dans Sa Píeté
April 20, 2019 Serpas Martha

The Morgue Is Closed

Any décor depresses when it shows
only dirt preserved. Ring the freezer’s bell.
I’m very sorry. The morgue is closed.

Hurry up all you want. The diener knows
nothing but how many served, the hellish
décor when the A/C slows.

Flash your toe tag like a backstage pass. You know
the director, the gaff, all the clout you can sell.
I’m very sorry. The morgue is closed.

You are putrefying from within. Hoses
disconnected, you’re oriented only to self.
Any décor depresses when it shows

the failure of that last morphine dose.
Tie your johnny coat tight; your innards swell.
I’m very sorry the morgue is closed.

Ring again. The “we’ll be back” sign knows
when, but the plastic hands won’t tell.
Any décor depresses when it shows
how sorry you are that the morgue is closed.



Pélican Dans Sa Píeté 

Had you never been with me,
I wouldn’t hold your absence now—

Had there never been a cord,
I wouldn’t have this scar, would I—

Maybe it was the whirlwind of your blood,
the amniotic undertow that had me so blazéd.

For you it must have felt
as if flesh were being plucked away…

A drift line, a double
heartbeat, a kerchief of hair—

In secret Betsy baptized me
into this strange sinful gulf.

I know this much:
Water is oak brown or steel gray

or so clear you see your nail beds
dipping in the fount. I’ve seen it rise in ditches

or lap over levees or shank down
from the sky. It hems me in

like a country club towel.
What should I have grown up on, love?

Martha Serpas is the author of three collections of poetry, The Diener (LSU); The Dirty Side of the Storm (Norton); and Côte Blanche (New Issues). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Southwest Review, and Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, as well as in a number of anthologies, including the Library of America’s American Religious Poem and The Art of the Sonnet. She holds degrees in English and creative writing from Louisiana State, New York University, and the University of Houston, and a master of divinity from Yale Divinity School. A native of south Louisiana, she remains active in efforts to restore Louisiana’s wetlands. Since 2006 she has worked as a trauma chaplain at Tampa General Hospital. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at The University of Houston