When I posted Kentucky Funeral and said I wanted to rewrite parts of it, Blogville friendTerri asked what lines I would have rewritten. I replied in part: I'd rework…the description of the pallbearers (both how they were dressed and where they came from - they were people who lived up & down the holler, not exactly a "neighborhood," but clearly a community) …The pallbearers made such an impression on me that...Oh heck, I may just have come up with one of this month's poems!
In responding to a question about what I would change, I realized that what I wanted to do was not rewrite the original poem, but write a different poem about the memory.
What Stuck With Me
Thirty five years later, they stick in my memory,
Those men from the surrounding hills and hollers,
Waiting in groups of five and six
Spaced all up the hillside
To relay the coffin to the mountaintop cemetery
Where no hearse could go.
No one group could begin to haul
A coffin that far -
Up an incline where the only path
Had been worn slick from the rain
And the family trips up to dig the grave by hand.
They were dressed for the weather and the task at hand:
Silently, they unloaded the casket
And carried it up the hill to the top
With a terrible and swift choreography
Before melting away to leave the family to its mourning.
This was paying their respects.
This was seeing that one of their own was laid to rest
in the good dirt of home.
This was dealing with death head on and straight up.
That's what has stuck with me all these years
- More than the view from the mountaintop
- More than the family talk that day
- More than the terrapin in Atheen's hands.
Just those men, silently carrying out the last rites.