The Unburied Graves, August 2005

Those glimmers of coral might
Be the lots of some hard-luck
Town, or – depositing on the dead
A second bed –
A submerged cemetery.
       -Brad Leithauser

If you take a left off Old Gentilly Road and follow the canal south,
you’ll find a rickety pier, riddled with wooden planks.

Look out onto the water at dusk,
find the shadow where the moon meets the ocean,

silken oil clutching to the glowing orb
that floats just out of reach. Beneath the rippling surface

lies a buried city of unburied graves.
Do you know what the dead seek?

They wish vengeance on Nature,
the Mother that left them behind; they search

for the porpoise’s slick fin,
the crisp, tight burn of scorched skin in August;

they want the crunch of fallen pine cones
and the satisfaction in having climbed a cathedral’s tower;

most of all, they seek the blank eyes
swallowed in pails of black rainwater.

When the waters are at their stillest, remember
the fingers that clutched to neon life

vests and the wailing of mothers, the rosaries
wrapped through fathers’ hands,

the children reciting incomprehensible prayers:
Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum.

“The Unburied Graves” first published with Belle Reve Literary Journal.

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