A Sailor’s Epitaph
Inspired by our visit to the Bedford Bethel, a memorial not of stone or bronze, but of poesy to the multitude who found their final rest in the teeming waters. Dedicated to Julia.
See the pink of sunset in the West
and the waning light in East reclaiming
the blue of sea. Holy quiet, far removed
from men’s bustle, that permits thoughts
of wind and water, of men lost long ago
and yesterday upon the sea’s expanse.
These pebbles still remember touch of
widow’s foot, that long looked into the
black of night with prayer for husband’s
and father’s safety, that son and daughter
may see their unknown father, winning
their bread and salvation upon the fields
of water. But they found their cross in
waters of third baptism and this world
claimed its citizens in overzealous wave
of air or spray. The first caught his soul
in the Lord’s net while water served
as shroud and sepulcher to hide his body
till the final day of God. He joins the
countless scores of men most noble
whose ashes mix with the wicked wiped
before Noah from the Earth, and feeds
now the fish that fed him and his family.
And behold what monument God raises
to his children, commanding wind to
endless paean sing in place of inscribed
stone, blessing the teeming fish and forest
to weave living relics from their hearts.
Thus the seaweed sways with the dance
they made upon the swaying decks of ship,
and the whales sing in depths with longing
note the mariners of God sung beneath the stars.
The creeping things arrange their bones
into swirling shells and cups to serve as home
made in this desert richer than rainforest,
and the plankton rise touched by gleam
of Moon to living floor lay beneath the
vault of heaven to complete the basilica.
This sacred domain I enter, destroyed
and raised in single day, to fleeting shine
of sun catch and envelop as if in flaming
fire the shell I find and bless as candle,
prayer, and token of my memory calling
to the silent multitude of saints and sinners.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.