After Caravaggio’s The Entombment of Christ

Before you touch him, tell them to leave.
Tell them they have done enough.

When removing the rope, cushion his head
in your palm with one hand, close his eyes
with the other. Now carry him
away from the shame, to his home.

Go to his obi: wash him first with spring water.
Wash him as he would his children.
Grant forgiveness for his choices, leave no area
on his body dry. Scrub the plight off him.

Say, I am not the cause of your death.
Repeat this, so as not to see him in your dreams.
Unfurl his hands. Wipe the sin he last touched,
then lay him on the mat for dressing.

Rub the embers of gin into his skin.
Rest your arm under the arch of his back.
Turn him on his side, continue to anoint.
Feel the weight his own life couldn’t hold.

Tie cloth around his head and both legs.
Do this to ease the body’s transition.
Light the ohuruihu to heat the mat. Now
open his mouth slightly. Place a coin

between his teeth. Leave the coin for two days.
As the people gather, stay awake.
Awake through the drumming of his life,
awake through the dancing of the egwuwgu.

Protect his body from insects and rodents,
until night sheds its skin and his spirit ascends in honour.