children frequently laughed in the face of the man called
to run away alive; so, I guess
he was more like an old Schatzie*
a Grim Reaper.
back as far as ’93 or ‘94
daddy’s grandpa’s pa and ma
brought him and
his brothers and sisters who
would come along
the open mule-drawn wagon, down rutted
red dirt roads
eastern Kentucky to a rural county
seat in north Texas.
the men shunned hogs and farming, and took to crafting
white pine coffins for a living.
filled settler’s lives
bedsteads and padded side chairs;
drawers in linen chests;
tables, fancy carved sideboards;
mirrors brought in from saucier climes;
boxes, one or two pierced front pie safes;
desks with tall, backless stools
the cotton gin offices.
this gentility and show-room finery went on while they
the county cemeteries with hand-crafted
long pine boxes.
the end of ‘95 great-grandpa had a newlywed bride of almost
expecting their first child, she joined them in their
man’s world of work,
well behind that backroom
curtain, which was understood
be the great divide between the men
and her, as well as a
place for her to hide her
obvious belly while she grew a baby
sewed upholstery for their fine
a reasonable fee or trade of a yard-bird’s dozen eggs
she would comfort the
families of new occupants of
long pine boxes by adding a simple
cotton liner covered in cheap
two bits worth of pocket change or some little trinket
traded would buy a
satin covered pillow filled
with that same hard cotton, but
and dressing the departed
fell to the women of their families.
in winter, soft in summer, always clean and white;
angels’ beds, those coffins
were lovingly lined and the pillows
arranged to prop up dead
folks’ heads somewhat,
they’d be buried looking as
natural as though they were sleeping.
even been told that one hot summer day they buried great-grandma’s
prematurely; being that he was presumed
due to mortal injuries
received when a load of brick
down a well on him, crushing
his head and relieving him of breath.
no condensation appeared when a mirror was stuck
under his nose,
great-grandma retorted with some
audaciousness that his heart
still be struggling to beat because
something was forcing a
trickle of watery red liquid
out of his ear and onto that fine
pillow no matter how many
times she cleaned it off.
grave was already dug, so he was buried that afternoon.
always imagine that after that funeral, everyone left
standing went to the
to share picnic baskets
while they told hoary stories about the Cumberland Gap and the mortally
dead man (dead for sure by now),
was duly and formally buried in
one of his own hand-crafted
pine coffins with the cheap satin
lining and small pillow.
it is truly well known, bona fide fact, and not a
family tale, that
day of this world, even in
high summer, that Undertaker stood up
hours, all stiff and proper in
the scorching afternoon sun in front of his parlor;
his black wool suit with a
long sleeved white shirt,
six-button vest, a black grosgrain
Victorian necktie, and a well-worn
hat; wet with his
impoverished sweat that soaked through the band
his unkempt hair and then, dripped
in dusty little rivulets down his neck.
could watch him tearlessly mourning as the farmers in
wagons rolled past to
a new, satin-lined, hand-crafted
white pine box from the furniture store.
– in German, a word meaning sweetheart,
dear, or endearing person. May or may not be of a romantic nature.
© Toni A Christman 2013. All