Mütter Museum, Philadelphia

Of suds or mud, her realm was the kitchen,
but now in this museum, this glass case,
she rests open-mouthed.
Just another woman—dead
of yellow fever, her own hands
once plunged into hot water, the sting
of luster before the headaches,
the bile of jaundice. She didn’t last long
at her sink, instead to bed, the sky
yellows into hemorrhagic stupor.
Buried quickly, interred with hundreds,
other places, in lye
to hasten decay, the earth betrayed her,
then pressure and shift,
then saponification,
she turned into soap, to elemental fat
and flume, her mouth congealed mid-scream,
she never knew such clean.