Strange Coffins, by Mark hernberg


Strange Coffins

they found his body still      frozen on the mountain

after searching for years was it providence

that brought them to the plane’s wreckage?

having nothing else they put his corpse

in a 55-gallon oil drum   his coffin

filled with the sweet musky diesel     his funeral incense

entombing him forever     did they sing hymns

as they rolled him into the crevasse?


you had flown together for years, pilots and missionaries

twin engines of providence: Borneo, Papua, Indonesia

(lots of near misses, boy, believe me!)

and I do believe    you.

he had lost his son, you had lost years in the internment camp

your wife and child caged                                    100 miles away

(I view it as a blessing, all those things)

and I believe you.


that night he flew into the fog      alone

you believe that providence doesn’t only bring you out of hardship

but deeper in             through       beyond

he ascended into this liminal whiteness

doubtful border between heaven and earth consumed

when I am lost in the fog who will come for me?


Providence grant me a strange coffin

steadfast pallbearers who kept searching

lodge me in the icy throat of a mountain

    there are hymns my heart still sings