Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Shahé Mankerian: Educating the Son

I got my schooling at the morgue.
A summer job, my mother thought,
would keep the streets out of her son.
It was a booming business death.

The year was 1975.
A civil war was brewing and
morticians needed a better help.
I was in charge of clipping nails.

All toes and fingers had to look
pristine. With rubbing alcohol
and cotton balls, I cleaned and washed
dry blood from children with no legs,

from men who went to work at dawn
and never found their way back home;
their faces like shoes with no soles.
I smiled because I didn’t know

another way to deal with shock.
Some afternoons I sat on slabs
of marble eating feta cheese
on moldy bread and watching wives

identifying faceless men
as mates, and mothers who like doves
descended slowly on their sons’
decapitated corpses. Then,

I wondered if my mother would
look for me when the evening came.
Would she remember that I was
her only son and that I cleaned

boys my own age? I witnessed death
before I could live. “Mother, stay
awake. Don’t look for him among
the dead. He lives. He lives. He lives.”

Copyright Shahé Mankerian. Used here by kind permission of the author.

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