Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Thirty-two
Summer 2013
 
We Lived in a Year Where Only the Dead Could Smile
Dana, Massachusetts, Incorporated in 1801

Kelly Boyker

We citizens yearned toward the new century
with our general store, church, and tavern,
where the fields reached
green arms into the horizon,
lilacs wafted through the Commons
willows lined the river and we marked
each new birth in the town Bible.

News of the flood came as a mythical beast –
perched on the church steeple, screeching down
as we gathered our skirts and pressed our
children’s faces to our breasts.
Mountains bowed before our anguish.

They brought gravediggers who carefully removed
the cemetery caskets and replanted them in higher ground
fire specialists, to burn many of our homes.
More breathless than the dead, they declared
it was an essential sacrifice,
and also promised we would not be forgotten.

But among the legislation, allowing miles of water
to destroy our town, there was nothing authorizing
how we holdouts drowned, nothing documenting our bones,
nothing to appease our rotting clothes,
not even the mustachioed men who offered
retroactive compensation.

Now old roads lead to the water’s edge,
bullheads swim lazy circles around our heads,
as we sit in our ruined kitchens, dreaming of frying
those very fish with cornbread, slathered in hot butter.
Instead there is only the swaying of waterweeds
among what are no longer our homes,
surrounded by an underwater forest whose only green
is the verdigris slime, which climbs the trunks
and decorates the bare branches, imitating life.
Not even the fish are fooled.

We exist in two places, here and where you are
our bodies luminous, just outside the picture frame
reaching upwards toward the distant surface.

About Kelly Boyker

Previous Poem | Next Poem