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Posted on December 27 2019

Malika comments that she was 'compelled by taunt, controlled verse paragraphs' in runner-up JS Watt's The Undertaker's Daughter. 


The Undertaker's Daughter


I did not intend to follow

him down into this chamber,

eight foot by thirty inches,

a life’s constraint,

but the box’s extended hexagon

makes a keyhole

that draws this key towards

all that comes after life.


Years of life and dying

mark the polished surface.

The grain of the wood shows clear.

My father’s child,

I cannot help but admire

the patina. My face

stares back towards me

from the coffin’s darkened lid.


My father was a man

well acquainted with death.

He lived it and it consumed him,

occupied his flesh, its pores,

stained his hair mourning black,

shaded his eyes darker still,

modulated his voice to dim undulations

in case the bereaved were near.


I grew through his shadow,

my eyes absorbing its blackness.

I inhaled the hushed smell of lilies,

the incense of grieving that masks

more primal animal scents.

My voice shrank to a whisper,

the learned softness muffling

the dry creak of frustration.


When he died I tried to crawl

out of his lifetime’s grave,

but death becomes a way of living.

The sound of a nail striking plank

always returns me.

I cannot take a woodland walk

without naming casket types:

oak, pine, elm, willow weave.


Meeting people, I mentally measure

height, breadth and weight,

calculate spiritual designation,

for service requirements only.

Once in the graveyard everyone

prays the same way.

It is only the journey there

that demands narrow hymns and devotionals.


The dead know no divisions.

They do not hate or condemn.

I have come to find them

congenial companions in comparison,

conducive to the muted inertia

I wind myself in,

in keeping with my vocation,

my inheritance.



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