Eight Synonyms for Shroud, by Laura McPherson

In the bitter of November, the inside of the house waited.
A knock: a visitor, leather jacket hung with motor oil and amber.
   —how’s my favorite brother
   —you just missed him
            An embrace, tears.
A huge bag swallows the father, its zipper like his brother’s leather jacket,
if the track were drawn out for seven feet, plus two. Give or take.
Later the daughter will say there was an arrow stitched into the subdued heavy cloth,
white on black, pointing toward the future.
Later she will be told she remembers it wrong; it couldn’t have been cloth, or black. Shrouds—body bags, cadaver bags, cadaver pouches, transport bags, disaster bags, human remains pouches (HRPs), recovery bags, personnel pouches—are upjumped tarpaulins, made of polyethylene, blue or white. Maybe yellow, sometimes.
Nevertheless. White on black. That’s how she remembers it.
Back in 1988, they’re zipping him up so that he doesn’t get any colder.
   —if you look hard enough, you’ll see his soul rise to heaven
A puff of steam passes over a cup of stale coffee,
evaporates in a draft from the window.
The daughter will recognize this, later, as ample soul for the haunting—
that’s how she’ll remember it.

Laura McPherson (she/they) is based in Chicago. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Night Picnic Journal, Cosmic Horror Monthly, Corvus Review, and others. Her hybrid chapbook inVISIBLE is out with Alien Buddha Press. Find her online at https://lauramcphersonwriter.com/ and on Twitter @silversatire.

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