The Hermit’s Tutorial: How to Build Your Coffin

Chelsea Jackson


I. Gather four wooden boards–

one from the head of your bed

one from a footbridge connecting opposing banks

one from your desk, imprinted

with love letters and shopping lists

one from the tallest tree you can find.

Leave the forest an offering for its gift.


II. Use the bones of your fingers

to nail the boards together


III. Take the stones on which you treaded during pilgrimage.

Lay them down; a mosaic to form the coffin’s bottom.


IV. Pour wax from a candle to seal everything together.

V. Sew a pillow out of your hair. Rest.

VI. No lid is needed. Instead, stargaze

until centipedes chew holes through your eyes

and basil grows from your nostrils.

For you are gone.

You are garden.



Chelsea Jackson is awestruck by creativity and its power to challenge and comfort. She uses her poetry to ask hard questions, engage in social change, and explore what it means to be human. Chelsea is published in Avalon, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, and the Platform Review, and was a finalist in the 2020 Driftwood Press In-House Poetry Contest. She has her MFA in Poetry from Drew University, and regularly teaches virtual poetry workshops for new and experienced poets. Originally from Southeastern, Virginia, she now lives in Philadelphia with her partner, and their cat and pit bull.