Sandor Popovic

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What we know

1826 - 1882

From what a tiny piece of land below the Danube in what ended in his lifetime as the northernmost tip of the Austrio-Hungarian empire. Came over in a trading ship when he was twenty, one of the first to flee one of the many famines. Settled in New Orleans, but travelled west after his family died from one of the many yellow fever epidemics. Too tired to go further, he asked Mr. Davidson for mercy and got a job in the quarry, where he died of overwork1.

Opening the Quarryman's Grave

by Robert L. Smith

When Sándor Popovíc died of consumption
in the winter of '82, no one in Marble Springs
attended the funeral. Men from the quarry
grimly hollowed his grave out of the frozen earth,
not speaking even among themselves.

Sándor had chisled rock for fifteen years,
The others had never liked him, wary
of his thick accent and dark, hooded eyes.
Pastor Horner, that staunch Protestant,
had doubts about burying a Catholic, but a Christian’s
a Christian after all. Even so, he was reluctant
to lay Sándor’s remains in consecrated ground.

Nine children died that spring, wasting away
in a feverish sleep filled with horrible dreams.
Livestock took sick for no reason; at the Owl,
Bridget woke screaming one night, in the arms
of an astonished miner, having dreamed of shadowy
swarms of bats writhing above the mountain
like a tornado. Drastic measures were needed.

Sándor had scarcely been buried three months
when men from the work gang went secretly
to his grave one moonless night. Pastor Horner
wasn't informed. Later, they whispered the body
was uncorrupted, the flesh firm and white,
bloated, mouth and lips wet with fresh blood.

Trembling, the foreman offered
an awkward prayer for forgiveness,
for what they knew they had to do.
When they slit his throat, the wound darkened.
He groaned as they drove a stake through his heart,
or so they claimed. They hacked him to pieces, jumbled
his bones, buried them, and scattered the ashes.

They laid braids of raw garlic on the funeral pyre,
arranged in an intricate, smoldering cross.





Portal caption and links

A drawing of a cross, with a wreath around it
Pastor Horner
Ephraim Horner

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