Memento Mori: Museo de las Mumias, Guanajuato, Mexico
   They dug up the old graveyard. Bones, mostly—huesos secos, 
but two percent of the uninterred bodies in the dry soil of 
this high bahia were found to have desiccated ever so slowly, 
yielding a mummified effect, skin the color of dried dung, 
the texture of parchment: thin, delicate.
   No beauty here: none of death’s famous serenity. When the 
body dies, the hair does continue to grow, but slowly, then 
stops. The skin tightens as it dries, a most macabre effect: 
the eyes open, the face-hide & neck draw back & open the 
mouth, a life of lack of dental work exposed, such contraction 
wrenching the jaw to a permanence of shock. Hair falls out 
from the forehead first, some wisps remaining at the back.
   Many of the dead hides are pocked with insects, small holes 
like those that powder-post beetles make in softwood, fir or 
pine. The mons veneris in women impressive, wisps of hair like 
strings of sphagnum taking nourishment from air. As for the 
men, it’s either difficult to tell there once lived a man in 
that body or too obvious—testes flat like crushed ping-pong 
balls, penis an empty sausage case—the first a kind of 
negation/repudiation, the second a caricature.
   Finally a concentration on each face, including those of 
infants—a look not seen in the living, transcending that of an 
athlete, say, at the finish line. Past simple apprehension, 
past pale intensity: a glimpse not into the nature of dying—
that’s long past—but into death—as if there is something in it 
so terrible, so complete that these dead recognize the errors 
not only of their ways, but of ours, and by some dry grace 
they lie in state in an awful happiness in Guanajuato to tell 
us this.

-- Gerald Fleming
Befriending Death

As with death himself
I too sit close
to my father — 
death all too close
I breathe hot to his cold
jealous we must share
my father, me exhaling,
death inhaling
No contest, 
just a rhythm
   -from When Hearts Outlive Minds

-- Ed Coletti