Erika Luckert

Remove the body
from its viewing
vessel, from its
ceremony clothes,
from the gaze
of those who mourn,
and place it
in the Promator
machine. There may be
jewelry, photographs,
wax-sealed notes or other
relics to extract.
Be thorough,
check each limb.
When the coffin-separation
is complete and all
have been cleared,
the cryogenic process
can commence,
and liquid nitrogen
will be released
through jets at even
intervals, the flow
of chemical controlled
to create an optimal
Target temperature
for the body is negative
196 degrees, at which point
the remains will be ready.

Begin the post-mortem
vibrations, the Promator
shakes the deceased
into crystallized pieces
or cuboid grains of ice.
It’s only a matter
of minutes, there’s no
bone-crushing required
for such a brittle
block of frozen flesh.
At this stage, the body
should resemble a pile
of perfectly shattered
safety glass. The particles
are collected and carried
by conveyor belt
to the chamber
where they will be dried.
Water is removed
by sublimation
in a vacuum state.
Do not confuse this step
with the sublime.
It is simple: empty space
needs to be filled,
and frozen liquid
will depart its host
as a gaseous ghost, leave
the deceased behind.

At this point, the remains
no longer retain
any resemblance
to their human.
This may be
the most natural
of processes.
Excepting the absence
of water, there is no
change in the body’s
components and it
might be considered
the same. Now a magnet
is passed over the remains.
Dental fillings rise
like recollections,
pulled to the surface
of the dead. Mercury
amalgam, metals, more
than fifty other kinds
of foreign substances
will each be sifted
out in turn. Only
the body particles
that belong
will be buried
in this shallow grave,
in the topsoil, in a carton
of potato starch and corn.


Erika Luckert is a poet, writer, and educator. Her work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, CALYX, Tampa Review, F(r)iction, Boston Review, and elsewhere. A graduate of Columbia University’s MFA in Poetry, Erika has taught creative and critical writing at public schools and colleges across New York City. In 2017, she was awarded the 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. Originally from Edmonton, Canada, Erika is currently a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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