Poem of the Month
Instead of a Christening

By Daniel Cowper

Published on January 10, 2020

Goodbye, Romans said at interments, 
Goodbye, and Goodbye. Hired clowns
imitated the dead, mocking
and reminding among the mourners.

I moat myself with winter sea,
I bury myself in woods.

Could I reworship the griefless minds
I knew in childhood?
Mink killing chickens for pleasure and practice;
otters deboning their flounders alive;
does head-butting fawns from windfallen mast.

I don’t tell why I’ve come.
Scanning the winter seascape,
counting strings of bufflehead and goldeneye.
Watchful seals stare back, then dive.

I hike by rainpocked reservoirs,
where tarped dinghies hide behind salal.
I re-find pastures lost in barricades of trees –
sea caves warm with otter spoor and bones.

Over breakfast I mention misjudging
my leap of faith.

Death feeds the forest floor and fungi,
dissolves in ocean depths where worms and dogfish glut.

At the seams between woods and sea
it’s hard to miss the customs usual to grief:
condolences, pro forma or performative,
the rote rituals of the “funeral home”
(strange phrase) – forced reminiscences.

On the promontory, where sabots lie turtled till summer,
a passing cat halts, listens for mice wintering
in dry grass under the sailboats’ shelter.

This is the season:

streams complaining, …………….carving the swollen beach.
Empty docks moaning…………….in the damp before dawn.
Spent waves………………………..gulping back over granite.

But much will be renewed.

………………………………………..Summer will come,
imaging Eden, the sabots relaunch.
Children will linger by the shoreline till called.

But one will not come, hair stiff from sun-dried swims.
One will not limp home barefoot over barnacles,
lifting palms purpled by blackberries.
One will not loiter collecting crab moults and urchin shells.

What is, is outnumbered by what’s not.

The future fills with foreclosed expectations
for one who left no mark or memory to guard,
one ghost we cannot call by name,
one heart we watched once beating in its shell.

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