The undertaker’s son

We were both half-breeds,
Off-white and tanned
So no one could tell
Which brown race bore us.
I found him on the same
Second-string line in football:
He kicked. I tried to tackle
Husky kids who ate chaw.
We lost every single game:
Left on the field, heaving.

To fortify ourselves
We tried tobacco and weed,
Even hot white lightning.
But our bodies were too thin:
We vomited under the stands
Leaning like burning logs.
In exhaustion he yearned:
Pressing harder against me,
But I turned in retreat
To a college in the far north.

He never left Missouri,
Found work with his father
As an embalmer in the city,
Slapping dead flesh
And wax to each other:
So near to the rigid vessels,
Receiving them in a basement,
Opening their thoraces
With a saw in the night,
sewing them shut with gut.

I never became a doctor
Like I boasted to everyone:
Running between classes
I tore my knee open on a wire,
And retched twice as the fat
Melted a river onto the cap.
After that, it was hard
To imagine this repeated act:
Slipping my hand into
Someone like myself.

Andrew McCall

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