He works for Batesville Casket Company,
wears death like a ring on his finger.
He’s seen more love selling burial boxes
than most see in a lifetime, tears and wrung regrets
as the survived-by shop the display room, pausing
at the slightly damaged, limited-time-only models.
He keeps this in his face as he explains options:
cherry vs. pine, Millennium Steel, Primrose Bronze
laid out in a fancy, four-color tri-fold, the cost always
tucked inside his briefcase, hard as the bodies he fits.
Sometimes he dreams of his own funerary—mahogany
with gilded handles and an embroidered overthrow,
the warmth, beauty and personality natural wood brings
to death—the moon shining velvet on his quiet end.
Once, alone in the dead hours of the afternoon,
he dared lay down in it, surrounded by sweet billows,
crossing his arms in approximation, forever landed,
an eternity of forgiveness, almost ready—exhilarated.
But when he suggested to Mr. Batesville that they might
let customers try out a casket—test drive—so to speak,
his boss shook his head with the weariness of a moneyed angel
and said, “You get ‘em in there, they’ll never come out.”
I have a shed in my chest,
a place to store things too frail
for the heart, things that can’t bear
the beating; insistent lung wind.
It is soundproof, so organs can’t
be heard dying, vessels popping;
the bloodstream is more like
a trickle and cancer has a soft “c”.
In here, I keep the never kiss,
the salesman’s ring, bookends,
boots and a bottle—a toolbox to fix
love after age and poachers.
It is simonized and shingled,
boxes stacked over the damp
corner where storms seep in
despite the sealant, the stripping.
Come in with me now if you
need something—the seeds
we never planted, turpentine,
shellac, a shovel, a nail, a vice.
But remember, when you shut
the door, the heart is silent,
the light, stingy, and the one thing
you want, impossible to find.