Dressing My Father’s Body

by Lance Larsen

Lance LarsenFuneral

Driving to the funeral home that hollowed-out
morning, my sister and I did not whimper
or howl. We did not curse the five stages
of grief that swept over us, out of order,
like the mungy weather outside: creeping mist,
a jigger of sun, hard rain that cleansed
nothing, clouds, finally dirty puddles
we splashed through like children in denial.
And once inside, in the funeral home basement,
we did not kneel or hum a hymn or snip
a lock of our father’s tumbleweed hair,
or trim his nails, ten slivers of moon and myth
and Danish DNA, into a handkerchief.
Nor did we make a death mask out of exotic
plasters to save his grimaces and grace
in a hatbox, or pretend to trace the pilgrimage
of his soul like a trapped finch squeezing
through a broken transom into the natty
blue beyond. We even forgot to snap
a picture of him on the padded green table.
No bent memento mori to finger later, no blurs
to interpret as vestiges of his spunky aura,
definitely red, or at least orange, haunting
his stilled limbs. I did not beat my breast,
and my sister did not rend her blouse.
Nor did we raise our fists at Heaven or whatever
skates in silence above stained ceiling tiles.
And though I stared at the corner chair,
I did not heave it through the window
in an ecstasy of smashed glass. And my sister
did not slash off her watch and grind its gears
into dust in protest of time slow and time
forever. No, docile as lambs, we dressed
our father in shirt and suit and tasteful tie.
We tucked and smoothed, patted and pressed.
Fixed for the hearse, mouth wired shut,
hands taut, he was ripe for the trek.
We kissed him, both of us, exited, then fell
back into clamor and routine, trading breaths
with a wheezy machine shop and a scented
candle store. And the sun was doing its thing
in earnest now, and we cinched up our seatbelts
and drove slowly home to report the lie
that we and the rest of the world were ready.

Last updated October 27, 2022