She swam to these shallow waters to give
birth. Knowing only the quickening of her heart,
the heart inside her; resonance of body within body,
sea within sea. Her newborn calf
sputtered brine, tasting the new waters.
Each breath a new ocean. Again
she sings him her song, smoothing her nose along
his arching back—his squeaky response was,
they say, almost identical to hers. Seventeen
days and she yet carried his dead body, balanced
fetid crown, pushing it through the water, diving again
to retrieve it with a swaddling fin—careful
not to pierce its tender, bloating flesh.
Her pod stays with her, behind her, beneath her;
nothing prepares us
for when life’s beginnings are salted
with poison, distended into premature endings.
On our wedding day, we fled laughing
underneath ripe autumn clouds, like gazelle—
pausing, turning, dashing in unison. We huddled
under oaks, dripping on to sunflowers and wheat and
wild with joy. With friends and wine and love
binding a coronet of eucalyptus and lavender around your
golden head, between our fingers, our teeth,
our thighs. Let me have this moment, let me
pause here again
my mother took
my hands in hers, joy dried
on her lips, she said this storm
will not pass, three days later
she killed herself—
How do I answer, when one day our son asks
what I saved: artichoke hearts in warm butter,
fresh bread’s yeasty crackle, wool still on the skein,
iroshizuku ink, every word she wrote;
but not her. Tell me a man isn’t strong
enough to carry his mother forever.
Her body is heavy on my skull.
This morning brings me to the stillness of the Sound.
In time I will learn too, Tahlequah: the miracle
of ascending from familiar onyx depths, bearing
nothing and breaching— arching, towards the sun.
This piece responds to the same event as a poem from earlier this month Deeper than her lungs could go, as well as themes related to the death of a parent as seen in How ill a son returns his mother’s love, and suicide as in Cowper’s Grave, For Adam: a sonnet composed at church on the morning that I learned he’d taken his life and If you believe that deaths do come in threes.