Stickman's Graveside Geometry
© Allan Markin


We are the grave diggers
six men, shovels ready
you are the stickman with four sticks
laid rectangular on the ground
defining how much land a man needs
we ask if such precision is necessary
you declare that heaven is nebulous
without bounds, that we need to put a shape on it
if God won’t do it for us
the break must be precise or we will be
chained to the earth forever

Today eternity holds no promise of an easy hole
we dig to a deadline, sweating rocks
the gravity holds but the mound of dirt grows
we dare not cover your sticks
but we curse them occasionally, softly
so that neither you nor God will hear

You remind us that the sticks define it all
falling to your knees to check the size of the hole
as if I supplication to some geometric God
who calls on you to worship shapes
when you should be singing Doukhobor hymns

Then it is finished, on schedule
up to your usual standards
you stand on the mound of dirt
like a prophet in gumboots
a mad diviner of earthly mausoleums
eyes aglow with some preternatural bliss
as you remove your precious sticks
that must never be touched by tears
from puckered faces coming to see your handiwork
the hole into which the people’s grief will be poured
officially, by a stickman

But wait!
the rude cortege of pickup trucks appears
like a motor carnival procession for the dead
on one the coffin on one the choir, tuned up
to turn the slate sky into rainbows
that your sticks cannot measure
after forty years of experienc