The Ablution of the Sea
By: Ian Galey
“Forgiven father, pale and still,
Absolve me—child of loathe and dread—
From every sin of mind and will
Committed ‘gainst thy soul now fled
Away to heaven, hell, or state
Of place unnamed, unthought, alone.
Though injured by thy swelling hate
That stripped my mother to the bone,
Forgiv’n I say is now thy slate
But far too many moments late.”
I bowed my head and turned aside
As four bleak men the coffer eased
Into a hollow near the tide
With which the ocean grabbed and seized
The lowly body bit by bit
With every push and pull of day
It stole each every part unfit
Till nothing in that coffer lay.
Beneath the waves, the time obit,
This carcass sank into the pit.
And silent churned that massive pond
The keeper of a broken bond:
A heart still longing to respond.
Ten years I watched along that beach
The swooning of the sun to keep
A memory of the day the breach
Enlarged beyond the sea too deep
And marched against the sordid song
Ablution ringing in deaf ears,
Deaf ears full-stuffed with every wrong,
Unwashed, unchecked by starving tears.
But then amidst the shifting throng
I heard a slushing scrape along
The seabed like a grating prong.
Betwixt the shadow of the sea
And dark against the ocean floor
With crooked arms and bended knee
He came and crawled and sludged ashore,
A slimy skell of marshy green
With milky eyes and purpled lips
And stale black hairs that oozed between
His shoulders and his slinking hips.
What horrid smell, what wretched sheen,
What putrid, septic, rancid scene!
A gleeful wrinkle split his face;
In sated gait he came apace
As if to snuff my ounce of grace.
“Decrepit creature, stay thy ground!
The living, only, live on land.
Away, be quick; confound, confound!
The sea, its waves, thy form demand.”
His head aslant, a question stirred
From hoary, muddy, gargled throat,
“My daughter, daughter mine,” he slurred,
“Can you in features see this dote,
This rotten, clamed, besotted third
Of fathered visage fiends preferred?”
“In all the world can this be true?
Ten years since when I saw him last
I see my father’s features through
This monstrous mimic of the past.
O creature of the ocean shrine
Can you be he who’s buried hence?”
“Dear daughter, yea, here is my sign:
Forgive me all my vile offence.
My heart is here, forever thine.”
“Receive thy pardon father mine.”
He veered and sank into the spray
Returning in his coffer lay
And rests there peaceful to this day.