Instructions for My Father’s Mortician


 
1. When you receive him, receive him. He’s heavier
      than he looks and eager to meet you.
 
2. Wash him twice. Don’t be surprised
      by his forgiving body.
 
3. The softest part of his body is the belly. His hands,
      neck, and feet are calloused and won’t break.
 
4. His blood runs slowly. Make time
      for yourself and take breaks.
 
5. Don’t bother with staples or glue. His eyes
      have earned their rest.
 
6. Sew his mouth shut. He’s lived
      by wire and knows how to tease it out.
 
7. He often smiled even where there was little
      joy. Can you use that?
 
8. All of this will be more than you’re paid for,
      I can’t do anything about that.
 
9. Let me see him first. I need to be sure.
 
10. If you need more time,
      I’ll wait as long as he needs.
 
 
 

Michael VanCalbergh received his MFA in Poetry from Rutgers-Newark where he taught for six years before moving to Normal, IL. When not catching his daughter before she jumps off the couch headfirst, he is one-half of the comedy etymology podcast Words for Dinner. His has appeared, or is forthcoming from, Gingerbread House, The Collagist, Naugatuck River Review, and others.