What the Gravedigger Needs

Teuva, Finland


rubber boots

leather gloves

iron spear to loosen up the frozen ground



length of rope

board to prevent mourners falling in

bicycle to go from grave to grave

Rachel Loden
New American Writing
Number 24, 2006


Is a list a poem?  This poem makes it hard to argue otherwise.  The items are well chosen, the list brief and pointed and powerful.  Some have obvious uses, and are left undescribed, some you fill in by yourself (rope to lower the coffin in) and others are described for you, but in terms simple and short enough that they compel imagination anyway.  This poem was a real gem, to me.  I can tell partly because now I want to imitate it.

3 Responses to “What the Gravedigger Needs”

  1. lizgerber says:

    Short poems, yes!!! What I also like are that there aren’t any personal details but just the facts, sort of like the role of grave markers. The reader looks at each line for a split second, which is, for most of the time, the same amount of time a person walking through graveyards looks at each marker.

    I really like the second to last line. I think there needs to be a comic image in the poem, or else each item in the list would bear the same weight, and that’s sort of untrue to graveyards as there are so many different sizes and varieties of graves(family plots, headstone vs. monument, etc).

  2. awcoulter says:

    this poem was interesting to me as well. if someone asked me if i thought that a list of things could be a poem, i would most likely say no. however, this is definitely a poem. i agree with jason’s comment that this poem really does get the imagination working. the reader is left little details, most important for me, the title, to put together into meaning. very interesting.

  3. Ryan says:

    hot damn, I like it!
    I think Liz is dead on with the comparison to epitaphs.
    Also, as previously expressed, I love short poems.
    I’m pretty ADD, so any given poem has to be pretty darn amazing for me to want to stick with it more than a page or so.
    brevity is where it’s at.