Our Parting Gifts of Salt (published)

This poem, which I wrote in Botswana, was accepted to be published in Altar Collective’s fourth volume! Altar Collective is a great new publication based in the LA-area. They’re getting on their feet in terms of establishing a bigger readership and bringing in enough funds, so I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of one of their amazing volumes!

Our Parting Gifts of Salt

We dragged dead things up from the ocean.

And the white stones that never lived.

With sand biting at our knees and soles

the stones became a ring and that ring encircled a star.

We filled oyster shells

with blue and pink pebbles,

ripped up seaweed coarse as matted fur—

Anything to keep the words at bay.

We dragged dead things up from the ocean.

Things the salty murmuring waves had surrendered:

exoskeletons of lobsters mercilessly cracked and crunched,

horseshoe crabs robbed of dignity, rocking on their backs,

the war wounds of their slimy legs and innards exposed,

the singing flutes

of a tuna’s bones splayed

like a fortune telling across the bowl lip of the shore.

The sun sank and spilled along the horizon’s thread –

a bead of blood touched with a needle,

and the burgeoning stars lit their secret lamps.

Soon our shadows were naked and black,

stretching like totems

or the towering cast of a lighthouse.

With arms raised, we plunged into the sea,

let the stirring tide

pick us clean with its pincers of ice.

That water flattened the whale song out of our lungs.

That gulping cold reached into our flesh and shook us.

We watched our shadows shiver on the sand

and we dragged ourselves out as if

we had just grasped lightning in our hands.

Last came the finale of reeds,

raised into a barrier around the ring of white stone,

the bone, the skeletons,

and corpses of lost sea creatures.

We put what we could to the flame

and the heat dried the salt rough on our skin.

We released the night howl from our throats

as that little fire licked up death.

One last time before I left,

around the ring we went.

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