Do not be swayed by the woman who weeps passionately over the corpse.
She may be sinking a needle into the neck of your dead mother.
Putting metal into a wooden casket is the same as gutting a child.
They will die even before they can begin a life anew.
If you can, summon tears when the lady with permed hair arrives.
She has not realized the 80s has left,
that instead of giving body to her locks, these chemicals pull out more roots.
She has not realized that, in spite of her efforts to gut chickens on the kitchen floor
and serve drinks in the card room, she will forever be an outsider.
This is the cost of being a second wife.
Do not look down on that daughter-in-law whose face is set in grim lines.
She has been bequeathed the task of wiping her dead father-in-law’s loins.
To clean the body of dead parents is a gift, she is told.
Their grime will bring good luck—
never mind that in life she was treated like shit.
There is the daughter who was not here yesterday.
Everyone is keeping receipts, logging in how many hours each family comes to grieve.
They don’t account for the time between midnight and 7 AM when,
while they slept, she watched over the dead.
In an adjoining room, old men gambled all night,
but no one will stand up against the gossip.
It is the nature of men to let slander against women slide off their back.
When it is 2 AM, watch for the Hmong vampires.
They may look like you and me, but there is something off about their aura.
They will approach the coffin when the funeral parlor is nearly-empty.
They will try to pry the plastic lid off the casket.
They will bask in the scent of embalming fluids.
They will attempt to steal the soul of the dead.
It will be hard to determine if they are spiritually gifted or mentally unstable.
This is the Hmong world, after all.