Most nights the only water was the sea
breaking softly away from our bodies
and if we ate black-market oranges
we had to decide between sticky hands
and sand on the sheets. In the hot room
I clutched your shoulders, I called you
sea-girl until you rolled and drifted
from me to reclaim yourself.
As morning broke through the northern
hills and the women at the pansiyon
scrubbed plums and boiled eggs
we rose among children whose sandals
nudged against the bathroom floor.
There is water, they cried, and you
went from me to wash, to call your father
from the post office phone.
Alone, I watched strangers toss salt
on their plums and swallow herring
and cucumbers and cherry juice. I watched
as you entered the hall, a blaze of night
still in your hair, a heat in your eyes.
When we came to the sea you swam
away from me, a declaration, a rite
to our slim differences.
To every man a shovel, hard boots
to scrape hard soil. Now the white
Islamic words that covered her lie
not-quite folded in the crook of a tree,
a bouquet nearby. Now the men
align themselves to work, to break
this root, to make this rock flush
to where her feet might be.
The labor of a garden come March,
this lifting and smoothing,
measuring and pondering.
The women stand back,
some crying, and I see swirls of dust
where the sun of late afternoon
comes through the pines; I see
quiet fatigue and tendons stretched.
One struggles with a boulder,
one pivots to await the prayer—
their work is finished save the placement
of flowers, a scarf she loved, the sign
that says Ruhuna Fatiha.
Their shovels propped on trees,
they lean and listen to the words
they know so well as a stray retriever
arrives as if called, hungry
and wondering why this work
on a Wednesday, this commotion.
I am secretly satisfied. I find
the soil actually looks like soil,
this disorderly scene on a hillside
somehow right. These men
have buried their sister—a work,
an accomplishment. They have sweated,
lunged, and now shall eat and rest.
Death knows nothing of a poem.
Death is dirty, it dismays us,
and we must work to set it aside.
Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems have appeared in many magazines, including Posit, The Maine Review, and Diagram. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Boon recently edited a volume on the sublime in American cultural studies.