What They Need to Survive: The Medical Examiner

High-density, seven-mil body bags with envelope-style zipper. One cup coffee, French-pressed at four minutes. Otherwise, Earl Grey tea, its perfume of orange. A new Sharpie, not off-brand: anything else will bleed. Gardening shears, to get through the ribs. Long-handled from Home Depot are cheap, best. It took the department two years to get it, but finally she has the AP40-120 Medium Ozone Generating Air Purifier. Paper towels, a surprising number. After the Gold Rush, followed by Exile on Main Street. Rituals make sense of mess, assign narrative to nature. She’s the last to see the body, her task to dress it for what comes next. She wears red lipstick because they deserve this small elegance. Her stitches are impeccable. When she finishes, the body is lined with black-knot ants, their precise mourning.

Christina Olson is the author of a book of poems, Before I Came Home Naked. Recent writing has appeared in The Southern Review, Quarterly West, River Styx, Nimrod, CutBank, Salamander, and on Verse Daily. She is the poetry editor of Midwestern Gothic, and lives both in Georgia and online at thedrevlow-olsonshow.com.