“History Park” and Wedding Venue, Lynchburg, VA
No one is buried in Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery
except for pet ashes in the Scatter Garden
for those who can pay
and the potter’s field that keeps filling
with photos and plastic hearts.
But among the gravestones
there’s a village
of these small museum-houses
that talk when you push a button.
The Hearse House houses
what else? An old hearse,
sealed behind glass,
black and elaborate as a beetle.
White horses if the dead were children.
The voice of the house is twangy, over-friendly.
Some cousin who shows up
and has to make everyone laugh.
The voice explains the method of procession,
how prolific death was then,
the hearse alone inside
as if it could be in there making breakfast.
Press the button again:
Check out the Pest House Museum
to learn about the great doctor John Jay Terrell
The Pest House changed when Dr. John Jay Terrell
took over in 1862, a Quaker who grew up
on Dreaming Creek. He refused to own slaves
but served in the Civil War.
Terrell operated an integrated quarantine, it seems,
treating both soldier and slave
when all were leveled flat by cholera,
yellow fever, smallpox…
with 75 patients he brought the mortality rate
down from 50 percent to 5
How could 75 patients fit in this room
I wonder but yes that’s right this happens now too…
there’s a checkerboard on the floor’s dry, white sand.
Terrell spread it there to absorb the stench.
Reading the Bible, I learned it from Moses,
a voice says of the sand, but it’s a different voice
for Dr. Terrell, a slightly British accent maybe?
An earnestness for sure, a voice permanently
half-strangled by a suppressed weeping
(did he come from central casting)? —
Lime and yellow paint on the outside,
black paint on the inside to save the eyes.
Barrels of limewater and linseed oil
for sores so the clothes wouldn’t stick.
Dr. Terrell scooped cool water with a gourd dipper,
put patients on milk and cabbage soup,
fed them from the goosey neck of the invalid feeder.
The Difference Between Medicine and Poison?—
the friendly cousin-voice is back—the dose.
Take a look at the asthma chair:
a rocker with arms lifted high
to better fill the lungs.
And don’t miss the amputation kit,
not so different from the ones we use today!
Andy Young’s second full-collection, Museum of the Soon Departed, was chosen for the inaugural Patricia Spears Jones Award and will be published by Camperdown NYC next year. She is also the author of All Night It Is Morning (Diálogos Press, 2014) and four chapbooks.