Since 1996 Volume XXI
Laura Madeline Wiseman
To help us let go of our dead,
all the morticians dress in suits
for the business of paperwork:
death certificates, plots, and permits.
You can reach one always by phone.
In ties and wingtips, they move slowly.
Hands cup coffee or lift cigarettes
in the break-room, but fold before them
as they speak of small things like the weather.
These men laugh and offer witticisms
with a softness around their mouths.
Their eyes hold yours, but glance away
to the thick carpet if you do.
The low tones and slight shake
of the director’s voice can be heard
as he cradles the landline phone
to tell someone of today’s service.
Whenever they receive a call, one leaves
the room to listen to what is required
of him. He bows his head and murmurs,
Yes, I can be there shortly.
During a visitation they escort to chairs,
they open doors, and they stand still,
feet and posture resigned
near the entrance of the funeral home.
After funerals, they shake hands.
With lips pressed together in a line
and wrinkles around their eyes,
they meet your gaze and nod.
These are the ones you want near you
when your world has shrunken
to a catch in your throat, the bend
of your head and shoulders as you feel
the damp corners of a tissue tremble.
Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience