Coffin Bell by Kathryn Kulpa

Coffin Bell

Besides all this, there was suspended from the roof of the tomb, a large bell, the rope of which, it was designed, should extend through a hole in the coffin, and so be fastened to one of the hands of the corpse. –Edgar Allan Poe, “The Premature Burial”

There’s a bell in the coffin. There’s a pull, there’s a string, there’s a bell in the coffin you can find, you can ring. Is it tied to your finger to remind you of light when you wake in the darkness? A string on your finger, a memory, a lifeline. A bell rings somewhere in the night cemetery where the dead—most of them—sleep; where the watchman nods in his chair; where only the moon hears, and she does not speak. A bell rings somewhere in the bright day when the family picnics and mother tells child it is the wind, only the wind that stirs those chimes. How many bells, how many graves, how many hands pull strings? How many voices go unheard, how many sleepers dragged from beds, how many feet leave trails in mud, how many bodies cut from trees, how many rivers dragged? How many lost, how many gone, how long must we sing these songs, how many mouths must speak? How long until they hear our words? How many bells must ring?

by Kathryn Kulpa

Editor’s Note: Rhyme and repetition ground this prose poem in a form that tolls in the mind. The more times one reads it, the more it feels like a warning.