TURNING OVER THE CORPSE
Walking in the woods that day in back
of Quarles Street as the pair of osprey
swooped and dove overhead, just past
the spot where I saw the fox last fall, I paused,
and there, between a vined hulk of rusting car
and a stagnant pool where cans and plastic bottles
clustered, under those trees
that sheltered once the old McCormick house,
I found a body, maybe four days dead,
its head bent to one side, torso spread
on the leaf-composed forest floor, now
bursting with late spring.
“This is strange,” I thought and gazed
with wonder more than dread.
(Yes, there was a smell, as bodies four
days dead will have, but that
seemed unimportant at the time.) I stood
and looked, and soon began to ponder
what had brought this body
to the woods, and why it fell just here.
I turned to poke around a bit, and found
a green beer bottle not much exposed
to wear, a pair of glasses and, nearby, a spatula
crusted with egg, though I could not tell if these
belonged to the deceased. I stooped down then
and examined the corpse— a male, and in the prime
of life, draped with heavy jeans and a dark t-shirt,
stomach to the ground, tattoo on the left bicep
that read “Sean.” I could find no other
clues, no hints to his identity or cause
of death, and left the pockets for police to search.
Then the spirit came upon me and
I said, “Sean, arise.” But he did not
get up. Still, I reached out to touch
him where he fell. I turned him over,
the stiffened bulk, and found the purple flowers
that his fall had crushed. And then,
right where hip had met the ground,
I saw an orange. Taking it from leaves
his weight had squished it into,
I rubbed it on my shirt and peeled a half.
I wedged a section out and bit,
and juice burst in my mouth like wine.
A drop ran down my chin,
and I wiped it away with the back of my hand.
Joe Lapp grew up
in the Kenilworth neighborhood located east of the Anacostia River
in Washington, DC, and returned to live in the neighborhood four years
ago. His parents started an Amish-Mennonite church in Kenilworth in
the 1960s. He is writing the story of his family's experience in the
community and has recently published a booklet, Kenilworth: A
DC Neighborhood by the Anacostia River, featuring neighborhood
Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 2006.
To read more by this author:
Lapp: The Wartime Issue