I’m going to build a pine box
one early day in Fall
I’ll go for a walk in the woods
an axe in my hand.
I’ll find a tree, tall and straight
and as wide as my arms can hold.
I’ll work my axe on it
around and through tree rings
all day until the sun is low.
The next morning I’ll wake
dewey, cold and aching
lying next to a body older than mine
in the wet moss and leaves.
I’ll set to work
stripping the bark
until the skin is laid bare
naked, weeping, fragrant.
I’ll let that body rest a while
before I take my iron wedge
and drive it down the grain.
Finding a straight path
through the rivers and sinew
from top to bottom.
I’ll carry all the wood I need
piece by piece
and lay it somewhere warm and dry
for all the winter
and I’ll burn what’s left.
In the Spring
I’ll take my chisel and my plane
to that raw surface
stroke by stroke
until the face is smooth and bright
soft as a baby
to my rough touch.
I’ll make the measurements with my body
so there’s enough room inside.
I’ll cut the wood
using the teeth
of my hand saw.
I’ll work my chisel
‘til the seams fold into each other
holding together tightly.
I’ll sand every edge and corner
until the box is one.
I’ll climb inside
taking a rest for a while
breathing in it’s fresh and dusty aroma.
Contained inside, I’ll know nothing of outside
but I will still hear the leaves
blowing in the hot summer wind.
I’ll bathe it in linseed oil
and let it dry
through perfect days and nights
while I spend my time
swimming in the cool dark water of the lake
and sleeping in the afternoon sun.
When it’s ready I wont need it yet
I don’t know when I will.
Perhaps I’ll use it
to keep my extra blankets and sweaters in.
If someone wants it I’ll sell it to them
until the day I need it.
I’ll use the money for things I need now
like food and shoes
or a warmer coat for winter.
Maybe it will be included in a special collection
to be shown and seen and talked about.
Then years later, it will be sold again
breaking record prices at auction
it will be kept in a specially humidified room
with dim lighting and many other things
It will be coveted by rich old men
who will never wonder why
such things stur such cruel desire
dulling hearts with wanting and possession
In time I will be old and dry
my joints tight and wooden.
Then the day will come
that I need my pine box
and against the will of men
it will be brought back to me
to my home where I lay.
Those that I have loved
will line my box with a bed
of sage, rosemary, lavender and thyme.
Gently my small body will lay inside
my pine box.
Now it is time to close down the lid
to carry the box
to a place in the woods
where a hole has already been dug.
Jemila MacEwan, 2015