In The Mind of Someone Living

after The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hirst for Carl Cotton, the first Black taxidermist of Chicago

In the video,

Carl Cotton swoops his scalpel

deftly and deliberately

into the flushed red

of a robin’s chest,

contemplates its ribs,

hollow as a winter day,

and coaxes bone from its

hardened sheath.

This flaying

is an act

of love.

To make vermin

into god,

oh, craftsman,

there were no other

Black taxidermists, history says.

It is a profession

for people white

as asbestos and cruelty

with a degree to match.

But is it not

a Black profession

to make who would

otherwise

be buried in history

stay alive and soaring

forever?

To softly gut the lacuna of a being

only trustful in death,

it is a Black artform

to tend the wilted sorghum

of this marshland

and tell us

come see,

this morgue

I have made

into stage.

This exhibit

I can make

of mourning.

This monument

I can make

of bone.


Azura Tyabji is a poet and organizer hailing from Seattle, Washington and author of Stepwell (Poetry Northwest, 2018). She was the 2018-19 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate and National Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador for the West region of the US. Azura writes from the convergence of her Black and Indian identities anand  strives to develop and lend her voice to movements for liberation. She is a 13th cohort First Wave Scholar at the University of Madison, Wisconsin.