I wasn’t expecting the morning report.
I wasn’t expecting to see images,
The death, the blood, the open eyes,
the open hands grasping at someone
long gone. Bullets buried deep.
Not at eight in the morning!
Today, they told me, was unusually
Despite the many piercing
defects, we recovered every vicious cartridge.
Bullets bagged, tagged, put away.
Tiny plastic evidence bags contained
shards of a life,
a shattered story.
The body was cold.
I wasn’t expecting the body to be cold,
they looked so alive. How could someone
so peaceful, so pristine,
Be so cold?
Water coursed gently over their faces,
Down their lax hands,
As bits of scene and evidence and crime
Came loose from marred skin.
With every course of cleaning
I expected them to sit up, blink,
As if merely by bathing I could
undo such great tragedy.
But the bullet lodged deep in their abdomens,
her chest, his legs, his cervical spine
all the places I had seen them go —
Made that a definitive non-possibility.
Bullet-ridden, broken, battered…
The bodies in the morgue told a devastating story.
It was unexpected — every patient was dead.
Every last one: cold.
How to cope with such loss, when all I’d learned
Was how to keep alive?
What to do when every case was a cold case?
How to confront such failings of a violent system?
How to compartmentalize when there was no recourse?
But the examiner told me gently,
“We are their last physician. Their last advocate.
We get to tell their final story.”
And there it was — the point.
The point of the bullet embedded
in the man’s skin was only the tip.
There was more to uncover, more to find.
More to tell, more still to care
about, and for.
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