Cyber Corpse 2
Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
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For Donal Russell (1931-1994) Poet and Fly Fisherman
by Hank Dittmar

From news services: Washington Post, March 1994

Court Asked to Allow Body to Be Skinned

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Donal Russell's last wish was to have his body skinned and his hide tanned like leather. . . His will, signed Dec. 17. directed that his body "be skinned from the head down and tanned for the purpose of face binding volumes of my verse."



Cast aside this muscle and fatty tissue.
Burn the brain, the still chambers of the heart.
Reduce the hundred bones to ash.
I don't care -- they've done their part.
Skin my hide, neck and torso,
limbs also. Leathery already from sunny years
seeking swift running trout streams --
tan it all the way to taut and supple skin.
All I know and much I can't fathom
is in these verses. All that can persist
from this brief tour is here in words.
Take this human leather and bind these poems.
I ask you my wife to carry out this task
for I know my love lives on in you:
in life my mate, in death
you must be my publisher.


Rachel's Petition

Donal Russell of Springfield, Oregon,
my husband and proprietor of Russell's Bughouse:
a shame we did not dwell in Japan,
where doctors and museums vie
to add tattooed skins to their collections.
In this state laws against corpse abuse
cite standards of the community.
Offending community sensibilities -- isn't that
one job of the poet?
Spurned by the undertaker, that preparer
of formaldehyde injections and gruesome cosmetic
alchemy, whose delicate sensibilities
were disturbed by this strange request,
I am left with no recourse but the courts.
Judge, as upholder of values,
you are besieged by hate.
Can you see the twists in my fly tying poet's
cast at immortality, his longing for publication?
Over the years together I collected the rejections,
kept accounts and tended the back bar.
Together we bore children,
tidings good and bad and time.
Donal put it all down in his verse.
Out at the Bughouse, he was troop leader
of beery expeditions and indulged scribe.
Here before you are his friends, a community.
Snickering a little, but still watching his back.
Judge ---- please grant my request
for this purest form of vanity publishing.
Allow the poet to cheat death
by bringing out his hidebound verse.



Donal, does it matter how trite your poems, how low you aimed?
It's your try at transubstantiation, your grasp
for the night blooming flower that holds me in thrall.
This book of yours, is it meant for the altar, the library shelf,
or the bathroom? Does it scream imprecations
or leak subtle emanations? I want it to contain the musty
odor of the forest floor, worms and sow bugs
working under piney mulch, or the vibe
of old, battered salmon bobbing in the shadows,
bulging with young and tired of life. Donal,
does your banshee wail come through in your unknown poetry
or just in this perfect cry from beyond the passage?
Your alchemy, does it turn corpse corruption into art?
I fear it would merely graft slow putrefaction to the
I don't want to find out. That blind stab
across the gulf from your cranky spirit to mine,
that's enough for me. Bring on the tannic acid,
stretch and scrape, pierce and sew.
Let's bind your perfect words.

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