On holiday in Podgorica, a pilgrimage
you might call it, in the Palma Funerals
store we browse the urns, the chapel,
the preparation room for embalming,
but what we really came for are the coffins.
This is the store where Montenegrin Milo,
a man in his fifties, tapped some coffins,
checked the smoothness of the wood, whether
the particular shade of brown suited him.
He left on the counter what the staff later
realised was his obituary. We nominate
a coffin in which each of us will fit.
You quibble about the lid’s epitaph
but no one is dying yet. The staff
lay the coffin on the ground. And in you go.
Closing the lid, the staff leaving a moment
too used to termination to feign interest,
I sit on top, starting the stopwatch for your minute.
Your idea of testing trust, as if trust is as simple
as letting your partner out of a coffin as promised
or succumbing to the unexpected power.
Have you ever heard a gunshot ring out
from such a claustrophobic space? The staff in Palma
Funerals have, because Milo closed himself
in his coffin of choice and shot himself.
You’re laughing by the time I stand,
pause the stopwatch and heave away the lid.
Then usher me in. Your eagerness to close
your partner in might make astute men paranoid
but I’m more nervous about whether Milo’s
blood is staining the coffin. The darkness
doesn’t make me panic. Why would I writhe
when the staff will respond to screamed distress
even if you don’t? Milo was found alive,
the bullet through his chin. We’ve always wondered
how he missed his brain; if he’d had a brain;
why the staff hadn’t given Milo a refund
or why it was the man had requested one.
My minute must be up. I wonder if you’ve gone.
I suddenly can’t breathe and bang the lid.
Carl Griffin is from Swansea, South Wales, and has had poems published in Magma, Poetry Wales and Cheval. He used to review collections and interview poets for Wales Arts Review. He was long-listed for the Cinnamon Pamphlet Poetry Prize and the Melita Hume Prize.