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.
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