“The Body Collector of Spain” by Tamara Kreutz

Tamara Kreutz


When migrants die at sea, he gets them home.
—Nicholas Casey and Leire Ariz Sarasketa

I washed to shore without my name.
It had drifted away, while I floated for weeks
off the coast of Tarifa.

I was zipped in a bag, hefted into a hearse
and driven past pines and sunflower fields
to be shoved in a freezer

where I shivered for months beside others like me.
Remember! Remember! Imploring ourselves
to recall who we were.

Who we are now: bodies in waiting with eyes
eaten by fish, fingers wrapped up in kelp,
seafoam laced in our hair.

Frost sprouts from our noses,
feathers our lashes, our lips. We wait here for him—
Martín Zamora, the body collector

for those who don’t make it to Spain alive, the mortician
who knows when we wash up on beaches
we each have a history and names suspended beyond

reach. He will come to find us, embalm us, to sprinkle
our bodies with herbs, and shroud us in green
sheets, as a local imam taught him to do.

“I get the feeling,” Martín whispers
to our empty ears, “The future will see us as monsters
for letting you die this way.”

He will search out our past
through clues in clothing draped on the bones
of our shoulders and backs.

Martín sends our clothes across the sea
back to our homes, where he lays them out in market
squares, like museum exhibits

of the dead—one purple canvas shoe, an orange jersey
with a Nike swoosh, men’s stonewashed blue
jeans, size thirty-six, a gold plated heart

necklace engraved with a lover’s name—believing
someone will pass by and remember
a familiar shirt or gift. And there now

a mother weeps her daughters’ name
into an empty dress, a wife caresses the jacket
that once held the man she loved.

A father rocks a pair of trainers,
remembering when the feet that wore them
were barely larger than his thumb.

My sister grasps gray overalls, stained with oil
from the auto shop where I worked, and my name returns
to me, alights on my body, gives back memory of life.

I am not an Unknown to be thrown in a grave with the nameless.
I am twenty-seven years old, a mechanic from Tangier.
I am Achraf Ameer—

I remember, remember. Remember.

from Poets Respond
November 21, 2021


Tamara Kreutz: “During my morning walks, I listen to The Daily podcast by The New York Times. Sometimes an episode is so moving, I have to stop and sit down on the curb to let my mind process the story. Last week, I learned about a man, Martín Zamora, a seemingly unremarkable man, a mortician in southern Spain who is quietly, all on his own, finding the identities of drowned migrants who wash up on the shoreline near his hometown. He deals in death as a profession but understands that the dead are not nameless. They have histories, homes, and families who love them. He brings loved ones’ closure and delivers bodies back home for burial. While thinking about Martín’s story and reading more about him, I wondered what the unknown dead might think of this man who advocates for them when no one else cares to, who gives their humanity back by finding their memories and names.” (web)

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