When one of our men dies
We must sit with his body and pray it lasts sacred until ghusl.
But wordlessly we must keep him.
Our thoughts convulse inwards as these fluorescent lights
project cold onto his nakedness.
Preparing the ghusl was left to the men
Because my mother was red that week,
And wasn’t allowed to close his eyes for him.
Unable to bathe her own husband,
or pretend that his ankles could come unbound.
I was permitted to watch the cleansing but couldn’t bear the seeing;
We had already straightened the limbs but the bathtub was
so small he shrunk back into himself, joints hollowing the bowl of his stomach and
molding to the ceramic.
I could only think of how cold he must have been after his prayers left his finally
parted lips. And I couldn’t look.
He was rinsed three times and he smelled of camphor.
I did not watch the linen draped over his
pat-dry body, only returned home before the rest of the girls to
shower, sure to get the dirt from behind my ears.
I had my own white nightgown to drape,
but across a much smaller body, and no one to perfume me.
Rose Miles, Age 18, Grade 12, Saint Anns School, Gold Key