Courtney Leigh Jameson
Cortege: The Movement Of The Dead / The Dead Of Movement
There was a rise of corpses going to the water. No one knew why they had migrated in the late season. It had begun with one decaying lectern at the forefront and the rest just followed: reached their self-digested arms from the backfill and headed toward the coast in droves.
An undertaker accounted that in all the years he excavated and exhumed the bodies, he had never seen them form propaganda so specific in direction, so numerous in size, so defiant of the living.
There was no order—they did not march. It was merely a putrefaction of limbs sliding themselves across the desert, over the highways, through the valleys, and into the water.
An increasingly vast crowd watched this historical moment—this body farm movement and followed them at the ankles to the coast. The corpses dipped themselves, flesh and bones un-sheathing from form, deconstructed and sinking toward the bottom. If they hadn't been dead already, the world would have seen it as a mass suicide—even the dead did not want to live on soiled ground.
The religious formed a dirge, a cacophony to honor the deceased who were fleeting and re-dying. The tourists took photographs and drew sketches of the disintegration to record this phenomenon. Children held their mothers' hands tightly, and wept.
There was nothing left to do, but question the futility of the dead.
Shortly after the corpses had piled at the bottom of the sea ground, the horses followed. They dropped reins, kicked off their iron shoes, and dressed themselves in white sheaths. Their mass overcame the copper earth, as the people stood calm and still. The horses were clanking gait ghosts that hovered the ground (and then, the water) surface. Like the corpses, they were on a mission with the expansive blue body reflected in their eyes, as they drove their hooves toward the graves.
At the state line, the strongest of the men tugged at their cotton sheaths, but the distractions didn't take. They held long sticks in front of them, but the horses used their stride and jumped over and back in line. The women wept and pled, begged the horses to return to prison stables...the horses cut off their own ears, buried them under the throng of hooves and never looked behind.
When they reached the coast, a silence had distilled the movement of the distressed. The people held their breath, hoping for a moment, that the herd would contemplate their drop. They didn't halt, didn't falter from order, and continued into the water until the people could only see the tips of their bloody heads disappear below. Even the ones that got caught in the putrefaction of the corpses huffed the fractions of flesh away and pushed forward—down.
Once there was no longer a single horse in sight, the people ironically dropped their shoulders and fell at ease with the change of climate. Some threw flowers on top of the watery graves; while others tried to capture sopping sheaths as souvenirs. They thought the waters had calmed, at least the bubbles of breath had floated away.
Courtney Leigh Jameson
graduated from Saint Mary's College of California with an MFA in Poetry (2013). Her work has appeared in Similar:Peaks, Clockwise Cat, FLARE: Flagler Review, Crack The Spine, and Cowboy Poetry Press
. She currently resides in Arizona and is The Bowhunter of White Stag Journal