Friday, April 4, 2014

until the air was gold with dust

more half-moons in the shop

The Coffin Maker
by Ishion Hutchinson
Below his unfinished house,
down almost into the gully,
in the albumen hour of day,
noon, I’d squint hard to see
his barbed-wire frame in its twist
of perpetual hush going back
and forth in the dim room
building those canoe-sized coffins
he’d then stock to a pyre
to rot in the breadfruit shade.
The tiny chiseled cross in the head
of each, his signature, flickered
like ice, a wink that made me
fear that yard, even worse a boy
who had washed his face
with rice water and claimed
to have seen ghosts gathered
at the coffins, weeping, died
suddenly, too sudden, stomped
by an immense runaway truck.
But riveted to what he conjured
at midday out of the wood
he shaved until the air was gold
with dust, the wood marble,
I could not turn, invisible
as I had become, I didn’t break
for it when the lip and spur
drill-bit starred holes to wedge
the man-length sides together
and he curled like a man shuddering
to hammer ½ fluted dowels
in place; afterwards he brushed
a thumb over each closed-up
wound; done, he’d rest, then repeat
his epitaph in wood: the cross
the whole afternoon pulling a new
casket out to the straining kiln.

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