Lagan*

When he died I folded up my father
and put him in a stainless steel coffer
rowed out to sea, dropped and let him sink
a chain following fast behind, linked 
it to a buoy submerged two feet below. 
Looking down you could see its orange glow
as if through frosted glass, a smuggler’s mooring 
weighted down, padlocked, secret and secure. 


I waited years until the silence was entrenched
then rowed out again, dove into cold cached
water, just a layer of skin dividing it from mine.
Sound was a solid, infused with the sigh 
and whirr and click of crabs, whales and dolphins.
Against the density with bulging lungs 
and chest I pulled myself down, headfirst, link
by sea-grassy link, my legs waving like


dead man’s bootlaces. With a knife I scratched
off barnacles and opened the latches,
Met a pile of bones and empty spaces. 
Tireless tides had washed away all traces
of flesh, left his spine bare as a bowsprit.
I stroked the crown of his skull and kissed it. 
I skimmed my fingertips over his ribs,
his metacarpal bones, those coral twigs,


the palm that had held my whole torso afloat
when I was learning to kick like a toad
– he had let his hand fall away so gently then  
I didn’t notice what held me was the ocean.
He had clapped and cheered as I flexed and splayed.
I’d plunged and pulled and pushed myself away,
heading straight for water out of my depth.
I closed the chest and swam up, gasping for breath. 

*Lagan: goods thrown into the sea with a buoy attached so that they may be found again

With thanks to the Hawk’s Well Theatre for running the iYeats Poetry competition, of which this was an overall winner.

Share this poem: