The Kindercoffin

The kindercoffin instead of kindergarten. The kindercoffin I lived in throughout my childhood. A white coffin like the walls if my bedroom. A place to hide in as hiding was the utmost necessary thing to do. I hid under the bed, in the closet and the crawlspace in the cellar where I read, by flashlight, every book I could get my hands on. Reading was transport, a critical way to get away from the horrific violence and violations I was subject to by those who authored my tale of travail—Mother, Father, Father, Mother.

Imagine Father punching me between my legs. Imagine Mother forcing me to eat my own vomit. Then imagine the kindercoffin as my one and only resting place where I longed to rest permanently. The kindercoffin as the incubator for the poet I would and have become.


If only someone had put a pen in my hand back then. Someone who would tritely say: write what you know about. A child author of what might have been tragic, Wagnerian poems. I who once put pens in the hands of many children, very many children. I who one said write and write they did. Real poems that really mattered. I have always believed in the deep-seated wisdom of children, how it gets obliterated by the culture as I was obliterated by Mother, Father.

I can say with some assurance that their tutelage in abuse schooled me as a writer. That kindercoffin truly was my poetic incubator. In my early years, I died psychically many times and almost physically many times as well. The deaths have lead to rebirths. Hence, the resurrection of the word as if it were God’s word which, of course, poetry is even at its most extreme godlessness.

Extremity. That’s how I live as a rugged survivor, moving at breakneck speed from extremity to extremity. Excessive joy, excessive pain. There’s no in between for me, few resting spots and out of that utter extremity comes my poetry. What’s great for poetry—the running up and down the scales of human and inhuman experience—is not necessarily good for a life. I am better at writing than I am at living which isn’t saying a hell of a lot.

The feeling, the all too real disturbing feeling of the kindercoffin, descended a few days ago while my psychologist was desperately trying to glue together a very unglued me. What has and does unglue me is my brutal and abusive divorce now reaching its slow, long overdue conclusions. My doctor said, “Imagine a protective shield around you,” and in I went into the kindercoffin. Not so good. Not what she, Susan, wanted. But kindercoffin was haven for me, horribly so, as it was for me as a child. I felt safe in my kindercofffin. Who can violate the dead? The necromancers can and my parents were definitely romantic necromancers.

I have been writing for thirty-five years but it feels as though I have been for all of my earth years. I who should have kept a baby journal, my little book of nightmare with and audience of one which would be God. Mother, Father were a triumph on the darkness and that very darkness has lit up my poetry. You are predatory over language, a friend wrote of a comment given to him which suits me perfectly. I who was prey, small prey indeed is now a predator of words, a glutton and whore for words, the more the better.

If I hadn’t lived in the kindercoffin, I would not have become a poet. My extreme experiences, extreme feelings zenith me into poems. The darkness then a power surge especially when memory erupts. Memory that has been in the lock-up as I have been in the lock-up, that holding tank of the damned.

Poetry locks-up language, freezes words to the page, yet the best words give off heat. Palpable heat. Heartwarming a reader might say, but mine sear the heart, burn the heart, turn it into coals, but even coals can glow in the dark. That’s all I want. To glow in the dark, give off a little heat. Now my beautiful iron bed serves as my kindercoffin and at this moment I’m dying to crawl into it to rest a minute, a year, a century. No death, no poetry, that phoenix, that fire bird hitting all the right notes and just, thank God, in the nick of time.

Filed under: Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose