I descended to the deepest dark
to retrieve books and maps from cavern shelves
to fulfill the patrons’ requests. When I started, I heard
the sound of my supervisors shoveling dirt on top
of me, their last task before Friday night Happy Hour.
No one bothered with a coffin, no presiding minister
reciting “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
Though the earth was heavy,
I was not sinking. I heard wailing babies
in faraway chambers. None of the mothers
was coming to soothe them.
I looked for a tablet and pen to write
their names and stories.
I felt my daughter clutching my right wrist
and my son grasping my left. My wife returned
after seven years to grab my ankles. They tried
to shake me like an old rug in need of cleaning.
I smelled a rose-water angel approach.
In my last breaths
before waking, the aroma
of fresh coffee became stronger.
A recent Jack Straw Writer’s Resident and MFA graduate at the University of Washington, Corbin Louis is a Seattle native making work out of a legacy of grunge and rain and illness. Each piece serves as a form of sublimation, transforming dysfunction into arrangements of self-reflection and cultural critique. Corbin’s goal as an artist is to garner awareness and support around mental illness by creating pieces that shriek for understanding, and he has been published by Best American Experimental Writing, Random Sample Review, Visible Poetry Project and others.