The Embalmer


By Angela Siew

When I close my eyes, I am the one
preparing my grandfather,

moving around his body, hands gloved
in the chemical scent of latex.

I am a priest, chanting psalms,
swinging urns of incense—flower and musk.

I stretch out his arms and legs, rub away
the rigor mortis. I part his opened lips,

find a tongue inside swollen
like a blackberry

and I become a Buddhist wailing,
releasing a soul protected into the afterlife.

I prepare the formalin to fill
his veins, as he lies in his cedar coffin.

I tuck in his lips, stitch them shut.


Angela Siew is about to complete her MFA in Poetry at Emerson College. A former English language instructor, she now teaches poetry to Boston high school students in EmersonWrites. Angela is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and has work forthcoming in Rock & Sling.