Emily Severance

Body Bags

Do body bags come in different sizes?
Do the petite get to show off
Their fine figures during the return
Flight? Are they plastic or canvas or burlap or
Silk? Are there patches for the outside
Announcing how many bullets, shrapnel,
Or body pieces within? Does their coloration vary
Or is it always the dead green of worn dollar bills?

What sort of quality control is insured before a body bag
Is sent from the factory? Who trains
The body bag makers and the body bag inspectors?
Who creates the pattern? A dedicated seamstress
The likes of Betsy Ross? Sew onward fair patriot.

How do they keep account of which body’s in which bag?
Are dog tags stapled on? Names written in indelible ink?
Do they use numbers corresponding to names on sheets
a corporal pages through as he greets the hero’s family?
Are the bags reusable? Are they tucked in the bottom of caskets,
Burned with autumn leaves, stored next to wedding gowns?

How many body bags does it take
To screw in a light bulb?
How many to maintain
A standard of life?

Emily Severance teaches elementary special education in New Mexico.
She has a BA from The University of Michigan (where she won the
freshman poetry prize and a Hopwood prize for poetry) and an MFA in
studio art from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

(author retains copyright)