I’ve never found the body of a man
although the ocean takes one from the village
every year. Sometimes a rogue wave lifts
a tourist off the rocks below the lighthouse
but it’s rare— most bodies never reappear.
Each day bring buoys, candles, beer cans, rope.
The year the dead seal came into the cove
I thought, at first, it was a man. Such size
and bloat. No tide would take it back.
I rowed out to the carcass, pressed my oar
against the give of deep-scarred fur,
tried forcing it to follow other currents
but it rolled away toward shore and each time
showed me more of what’s inside.
To hell with it, I thought, I’m used to living
with the dead. I challenged: stay. By morning,
it was gone— ghost ship— away. Leaving me
the usual remains. Flat sea. Memory.
A: I’ve re-written this poem so many times that I really don’t remember my first go at it. I do, however, remember the image that inspired it: that dead seal, day after day, one summer in Maine. It was relentless and there was nothing to be done. We had to live with it. And then it went away.
Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?
A: Speaking of Maine, Olive Kitteridge was among my favorite books this year. It didn’t really make me want to grab and pen— but it made me grateful that she, Elizabeth Strout, had.
Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?
A: Why does the unexpected taste the best? Twenty years ago, my husband and I were lost, hot, tired and looking for a ferry in Central America, when we followed a dinged-up metal sign into someone’s back yard and ate the most amazing fresh conch in garlic paired with very cold beer. We didn’t feel our backpacks after that.
Hayden Saunier’s poetry collection Tips for Domestic Travel is available for purchase at Black Lawrence Press.