We Live Our Lives through Other People’s Bodies

Derek Mong

      till we’re no more than campfires
our families encircle. Our families then—

beneath the lantern of a saline bag—
rehearse their own deaths through us.

Meanwhile our pores open inward
under a deluge of morphine

and memory is all we have left to eat.
Slowly it grows to enclose us, before sailing

like a whale’s belly lightlessly on.

Our organs then, if we gift them to the living,
will rise, piece by piece, on cloaks

of dry ice. The small planes that await them
chirr over this city like crickets.

See their shadows leap freely, like those
of skimmed stones on the drowned.

And the men here—paused at a crosswalk
and listening—can feel their heels

lift as the crowd pushes them on.

Derek Mong is the author of two poetry collections from Saturnalia Books, Other Romes (2011) and The Identity Thief (forthcoming, 2018). The Byron K. Trippet Assistant Professor of English at Wabash College, he recently completed a Ph.D. in American Literature at Stanford University. A former Axton Fellow at the University of Louisville and Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, he blogs at the Kenyon Review Online and reviews new poetry for the Gettysburg Review. His poetry, criticism and translations have appeared in the Kenyon Review, the Missouri Review, Two Lines, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, the Southern Review and many other publications.


  1. Karen Murray says

    Great poem. The poem strikes such emotions from every single person who has been in a position to watch someone pass. It puts into words feeling we didn’t know we had.

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