“Jane Doe #11-12” by Don Thompson

Not all anonymity is equal.

Jane Doe  #11

Born to the flow—mind
meandering its tributaries,
the blood’s intricate canal system
passing continually
through thousands of locks.

Emotions overflow their banks
and flood the flatlands—
your carefully arranged living spaces
up to the wainscoting in mud
and debris.

And when love thaws too soon
in the high sierras,
everything comes down in the rapids.
Some try to step across slick rocks
or swim—overconfident,
ingenuous, or just fools
found under overhanging ledges
coming slowly apart
in the next dry season.

Our words flow too, tumble
out of control over boulders
or slip along irrigation ditches,
less than knee deep and yet life-giving.

Flow or sometimes trickle
with small pools here and there,
laconic asides;
or dry up in your dry mouth,
leaving sandy creek beds
you’d swear never held water.

And how could a woman scream
for help, for mercy,
with  a mouth full of sand?

Or even if blessed with a river
that flows deep and unhindered
to the sea
and maybe beyond—
how could she hope to swim
without arms or legs or head,
her butchered
torso tied up in a burlap bag?

How pleasant to lie on a coroner’s slab,
intact, with a tag on your foot
that says Jane Doe.

Not all anonymity is equal.

Hair not unduly mussed,
eyes closed, lips relaxed—
or at least without a grimace.
And a precise bullet hole
in your forehead (a bindi),
less deadly-looking than decorative,
and .22 cal.—
no explosive exit wound.

But not this…
like the mess left by a mortar shell
on Okinawa a year earlier.

Chunks, all burlap wrapped
and tied with rope
floated peacefully in eddies
(despite window sash weights),
bobbed in dirty foam
around the pillars of a bridge,
or settled against a weir.

Torso found first.
Right thigh and both arms.
Left thigh.
All without hands or feet
and charred (torture?)
apparently by a blow torch.
Then the scalp.

Even her head in its own bundle
finally drifted within reach, battered,
but not of much use
to the cops—
clueless then and now.

Unless the perp (no doubt dead) steps up
and takes a bow, claiming
inverse glory and bragging rights
for his meat-cutting skills,
for his satanic self-assurance
in disposing of her,
no one will ever know who—
or use DNA to ID the woman
who paid the butcher’s bill.

God knows…

Otherwise, the last chance was lost
when all her body parts
somewhere in the coroner’s cold storage.

Or simply floated away again
on that river of paperwork—
among the endless flotsam of bureaucracy.

* * *

Jane Doe  #12

a few predators, specialists / with a unique taste, / yearn for withered flesh….

Predators cull us—mutilate,
eviscerate the human flock,
hiding in shadows to select soft
targets on the margins.

Slit winos’ throats for laughs.

Some prefer lambs, a school girl
skipping along with her Hello Kitty book bag;
teens sent on an errand
to the mom-and-pop on the corner—
forever less than a block
from home.

Some with too much adrenalin
invested in the hunt, too much pride,
ignore hookers or slackers,
half high and oblivious,
who never look up from their cell phones.

Instead they stalk success, careerists
whose Jimmy Choo heels clicking
sound like self-confidence;
who know how to get it all done
in time for cocktails
and then take on a man—
or not.

Others pry open sliding glass doors
to creep up on housewives
busy in their well-lit kitchens,
using only weapons at hand—
knives from the butcher block,
electric appliance cords.
Dish rags to gag their screams.

And a few predators, specialists
with a unique taste,
yearn for withered flesh—
and for the bewilderment
of harmless, widowed
safely post-menopausal shut-ins
with scandalous blood pressure
or a hit-and-miss heart,
who never expected to die
like this.

A coat of many colors
on a spring night, the hiss
of insects coming cheerfully to the wake.
Midwestern matron’s black dress,
and so, except for the coat,
a plain Jane by choice,
without accoutrements.

Lobes that seem to shun earrings.
And a thick neck
no one would put a pendant on.

Rings?  Her hands had been lopped—
almost de rigueur.

Only dew adorned her cold skin
at sunrise, cheap shimmering
that dried up
before the ants arrived.

Face too battered to make sense.

But mortuary techs
who puttied it back together,
sort of, no doubt
less wrinkled than in life,
must’ve sensed something:
shaped an intolerant scowl on her lips.
Forensic artists agreed,
adding a burn-in-hell glare to her eyes.

A stout, stand-offish woman
with a blue-gray home perm,
well into her sixties
and beyond (if she ever considered them)
all the usual sins
we die for.

Not much more to it.

Tire tracks from a hurried u-turn
near the corpse
churned up the dirt road
like someone shaking dust from his feet—

An off-color import seen in the area,
indicating rage and a quick temper,
according to Hippocrates.

Also a wristwatch (common brand)
with a broken strap,
covered with useless smudged fingerprints.

And so on…

She must’ve been avoided, a nod
maybe but too distant to greet.
Paid cash at a by-the-week motel
where sometimes at night she read
at random in the Gideon Bible,
wondering what it meant.

Don Thompson has been publishing poetry for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks. A San Joaquin Almanac won the Eric Hoffer Award for 2021 in the chapbook category. For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at www.don-e-thompson.com.

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