When I say plague masks, you imagine punctures
of terror, you think serial killers & torture
but once those predatory noses
were wards meant to harm nothing
but juniper & mint, bouquets of small deaths
against larger death. As valuable as
accountants, plague doctors were taken
from the road between cities for ransom.
By which I mean, there are so many ways
to ransom the body, so many ways
to atone. By which I meant to say, reframing is the key
to happiness. Perhaps I’m arguing against myself.
Then again, think of a fetus—experts say
you don’t become you without
a genetic stressor. Strange but fitting
that initial spark also encodes our death
& ensures we dread it. By which I mean to ask
what if wisdom, like rain, collects at our lowest,
the lowest only fuel for the furnace
of refinement that is you,
what if the Dali Lama is right, drafting
a living will, imagining your death, can bring joy
Kara Dorris is the author of Have Ruin, Will Travel (Finishing Line Press, 2019) and When the Body is a Guardrail (2020). She has also published five chapbooks: Elective Affinities (dancing girl press, 2011), Night Ride Home (Finishing Line Press, 2012), Sonnets from Vada’s Beauty Parlor & Chainsaw Repair (dancing girl press, 2018), Untitled Film Still Museum (CW Books, 2019), and Carnival Bound [or please unwrap me] co-written with Gwendolyn Paradice (The Cupboard Pamphlet, 2020). Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, DIAGRAM, I-70 Review, Rising Phoenix, Harpur Palate, Cutbank, Hayden Ferry Review, Tinderbox, Puerto del Sol, The Tulane Review, and Crazyhorse, among others literary journals, as well as the anthology Beauty is a Verb (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Her prose has appeared in Wordgathering, Breath and Shadow, Waxwing, and the anthology The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016). Currently, she is a visiting assistant professor of English at Illinois College. For more information, please visit karadorris.com.