The First Death in England

She deceased, her doctor says. He shows me the dictionary he checked the definition in. We’re astonished. We’ve heard of death, obviously. But we’ve heard of unicorns and alien invasions, and know they’re not real. BBC Breaking News says, There’s been a death in the country. It confounds the public. Nobody understands how a person can just stop. Why can’t she stand up? Why can’t she be repaired? How does a photograph of her exist if she doesn’t? We don’t know. I wail, gouge my hair, poke my eyes, but the corpse is motionless, won’t get up, remains dead. I confess regrets to it, but its skin is green and peeling. I tell it things we should’ve done, but it’s acquired a caustic smell. Communication with the corpse is impossible. Sex with the corpse is impossible. I’m invited on TV but nobody understands a word I say. I try to explain the grief conundrum but I’ve been caressing the corpse willing it to move, and it won’t move, ever again apparently, unless I attach strings, dance it like a puppet. That can’t be explained. I say, Grief is like sand everywhere. The Prime Minister attempts a reassuring speech but she’s a famous liar. Then pundits posit the question of another deceased, who it might be. I finally agree to bury the corpse. People that never knew it are weeping, not because they’re devastated, but because they’re newly scared for themselves, the bastards. After something called a funeral, emissaries from other cultures visit. We’re so terrified of death, they say, we invented absurdities. Music, to drown out the noise of it. Money, to forget it. We invented war, which is a fight not to be the first to die. They teach me heaven and hell, various afterlives, resurrection, ghosts. An emissary says reincarnation and sand slips out of my ears and eyes. Now I’m roaming the earth, shouting her name at newborns, puppies, lion cubs, piglets, tadpoles, ducklings, fledgling owls, dolphin pubs, vapour trails, sapling trees. Until I find her again.

Daniel Edwards