Memento Mori

Mary Crockett Hill Click to

marycrocketthillMary Crockett Hill is the author of Autumn House Prize-winning A Theory of Everything and received the Bluestem Prize for If You Return Home with Food.  She lives with her family on Old Wilderness Road in Southwest Virginia.


Because they had no pictures of her breathing,
they stretched her small breathless body
on a child’s fainting couch, pressed down her eyelids,

and tucked a china doll in the crook of her arm
— as if in a moment of childish play
she’d merely ebbed toward sleep.

The sister, clutching an identical doll,
was asked to stand behind,
one hand on her dead sister’s elbow.

She stares at what is not her sister,
perfectly still, and yet her doll’s face
is ever slightly so blurred.

In another, the hair of the loved one
is braided in a rosette frame
for the photo itself.

The twins stiff in their tiny coffins.
The wife limp on her lover’s lap,
the young woman with glass angel wings.

This is our duty to the dying –
we wipe their chins and
change their sheets

— but what do we owe
the dead?  My mother’s body
makes a shape on the back

of my eyelids
that is entirely unique.
Do I regret

not opening her coffin?
Should I have taken
a picture?

Would that indeed,
as the sassy girls suggest
last longer?