Poetry — September 5, 2011 13:56 — 0 Comments

Letter To My Friend, The Embalmer – Andrew Gretes

Joe, when I die, don’t waste a second:
Inject me with formaldehyde.  Make an incision
At my navel and insert a trumpet

Straw.  The sound of your breath, my friend,
Should aspirate my lungs.  Weed out all excess organs—
Gall bladder, liver, intestines, etc— then extract
The brain through the nostrils, the sound-box through
The jugular.  But Joe, please, don’t get carried
Away: I’ll need the heart.

For good luck, retrieve Mom and let her spit
Inside me; retrieve Dad and let him write
“Juggernaut” on a scrap of paper so he can drop
It inside my stomach.  Then Joe, sew me back
Up.  And after you’ve remembered the little
Things—two coins for Charon, one honey-cake
For Cerberus—turn around my friend, don’t look
Back.  You’ll have prepared me for anything.
The way I was never prepared for life.


Andrew Gretes was born in Newport News, Virginia. In his stories, he often draws from his Greek-American heritage and the wealth of his family and friends’ eccentricities. He graduated in 2008 with an MFA from American University.

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What am I?

Bioluminescent eye
That sees by the shine
Of its own light. Lies

Blind me. I am the seventh human sense
And my stepchild,

Scientists can't find me.

Januswise I make us men;
Was my image then—

Remind me:

The awful fall up off all fours
From the forest
To the hours…

Tick, Tock: Divine me.

-- Richard Kenney