Poem: Of Gravestones and Irons

Of Gravestones and Irons

The first thing that strikes you is how they wasted nothing.
You see it in the first room you enter,
A gravestone used as an ironing board
in the midst of the vast Shaker washroom,
the smooth granite a perfect foil
for the heavy hand iron hot and perfect for pressing.

You cannot even see the mistake. There is a name there.
A date. A year. Perhaps it is a misspelling.
Perhaps, after weeks on their deathbed,
and all the preparation, including the stone,
they recovered. Maybe it is that last letter,
not quite perfect, a flaw in the stone
leaving a small ragged spot.

Whatever the reason, the gravestone,
perfect in proportion, perfectly smooth,
was deemed unworthy,
and rather than toss it on the slag heap,
they found a new use, entirely new
with no vestiges of its original purpose
except the letters and numbers,
the reminder of the soul who may or may not
have died.

You have built your own life on the mistakes
you have made; vast and visible,
tiny and barely seen; there nonetheless.
You have thrown none of them away,
preferring to look at them anew, to find in them
inspiration to create a new life
full of flaws and incongruities But still somehow

About this poem

The picture was taken at the Hancock Shaker Village.


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