The thing you’d think she would’ve been good at
was sitting still but Madame Tussaud
spent thirty-six years touring the country
in a horse-drawn cart packed with wax
effigies of the nearly-dead, the long-dead
and those whose heads were freshly off the block.
Hers was both travelling newspaper and a show
whose cast stayed motionless at all her gigs. Alone
but for her set of replicas jolting at every pothole,
she’d take each face between her hands
and kiss it sweet goodnight in Leicester, Sheffield,
Inverness, give talks on wax: the facts
(don’t model outside). For those who’d fallen
out of favor she’d chisel off their heads.
In Marylebone Road right now people are
standing in lines to pay to file past people standing in lines
who’ve been dead for years but made to look alive.
To make the dead appear living, the living dead
without quite meaning to, is a skill I cannot
yet take in and one that started life in death
masks where she’d reanimate the guillotined.
Before you go, did you know Madame herself
was shipwrecked once off the west of Ireland
and all her wax companions dived wide-eyed
to the seabed only to pop to the surface one
by one when the vessel rotted away and startle
the fish who’d thought this lot already dead?