I was new at the job, so the corpses were new to me.
As I snored in my room, a mortician came in, woke me.
It was a homeless man, our mortuary’s month for them,
and he needed me to assist. When I got to the
room with the porcelain table, he said, “I’ve got to go
over to the other side for more embalming fluid.”
So I waited, looking at the street dweller’s face,
stone white and rigid. How many soup kitchens
had poured their chicken plasma down that throat?
What career of his had crashed, what wife died
or left him as he sank? What did his voice sound like,
his walk look like? What would he say about himself?
Then his eyes opened.
I waited for him to speak, make a move, anything.
Nothing. Just the eyes staring at the ceiling.
The mortician came back. I said, “Don’t embalm him.
He’s alive. Look, his eyes opened.” He said, “Aah,
they all do that,” and he slipped holders under the lids.
John Brugaletta likes to make tables out of unusual woods like jatoba and purpleheart. He also likes to write poems, sometimes about himself, sometimes not. He left the Marine Corps in 1960.