Thursday, April 19, 2012

AT MILEPOST 33: an elegy in ten parts

I have driven hours now
down roads wending
through wood and field.
All slows to childhood:
endless red clay, the kudzu’s
slow creep, the pitch of pine,
the sky opening to sea.

Cormorants dive-bomb
skimming up blues and other
chum churned in the ferry’s wake.
Ahead, the island
where we fished and dreamed
amidst sea oats singing
at higher pitch
than the gulls’ keen

The sun burns a hole
through blue sky,
waves churn grey-cold, a wintry coffin.
By the time we gather one mile
past the ramp, the sea mirrors sky.

The wind lifts
sifts you fine between our fingers;
you want to leave.

With hands lent-like
we walk our paths
salt spray on our cheeks,
hearts to burst, we scatter
you, a final wish.

But I cannot let go.
I have regrets.
I have memories.
I have needs.

I remembered we walked into sky,
coral colored, sure of the night
and the next, and I wondered
while I crushed morphine tablets
and Ativans in the marble mortar
you gave me when I became a healer
whether you regretted going
the extra mile for science

If I had known
the trip to the hospital
was the last time
you would ever be outside
I would not have rushed
you through the rain.

I am not sure why I favor
forgotten detritus from
God’s great tumbler: the cracked
scallop, the lusterless
oyster, the conch which
sounds a half-sea.

We left milepost 33.
The sun burned holes again.
The light pained us
and pains us still

But tonight the moon pounds
the ocean full and unabated,
the engine thrums
deep through my soles
constant with the sea,
your pulse, a memory ago.


I crafted this poem from remnants of five other poems, all written during or after my father's unsuccessful struggle with cancer. I like the way these pieces quilt together, found pieces stitched with new words. Let me know if you think it works.

I miss him so. Peace...


  1. Oh yes it works. The tears in my eyes can attest to that. Thank you.

  2. Yes, I think it works. The reader doesn't need to know anything about you to understand exactly what's going on. I find myself lingering on viii - that uncertainty, the phrase "God's great tumbler", these leftover things we take back from the beach. It's like an emblem for the whole series: an assortment of like-objects all pointing back to a specific place and memory. The poem is beautiful and moving.

    Thanks for plugging my feature at CP, and Happy Birthday Linda.