Death Pose

By Wesley Rothman

From Sinosauropteryx Prima fossil at Senckenberg Museum of Frankfurt. Ghedoghedo on Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Paleontologists have yet to reach consensus
         about the phenomenon. Long-necked, tailed
vertebrates found with their heads thrown

back—sexually ecstatic—or offering their throats
        for sacrifice. Limbs found grid-like and flattened,
tails lain across the body like a single-stemmed

lily. In the throes of dying, raptors snap
        backwards, writhing out a battle cry,
calling down the rapture. Or after

the skirmish, their eyes evaporated as they sank
        into quiet—dark and wide—and the shrinking
world closed in. Claustrophobia: constriction

becomes the world. Or rigor mortis ran its tender
        fingers through muscles as the river rose,
rich with silt—a comforting, easy burial.

Wesley Rothman’s poems and criticism have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, New England Review, Post Road, and Prairie Schooner, among other venues. Recipient of a Vermont Studio Center fellowship as well as Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations, he teaches writing and cultural literatures in the Boston area.

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