Elegy to Be Read on a Beach
When I think of you I think of
The poem you wrote in class.
A woman on fire, asleep in a bathtub.
When she wakes up, she runs through a
National Park, burning everything
Until the forest is nothing but hooks.
Other times, I think of the mouse bones you
Let me borrow. And a book you designed
Where every page had a picture of
Meat. I think of the time you sat
For an hour on a bench, too
Sick to move. Last year
I cried on a bench in
Chicago and didn’t realize
I was thinking of the
Mice that had died. If
I could, I would tie a blanket
To each hook in the forest
and make a canopy where
you could find somewhere
To sit in some shade.
It would be like nothing
Precious in you had ever
Stopped beating. It would
Be a like a tub full of ashes.
Which is another way to say
A tub full of nothing that burns.
Once, my godmother fed me
the wing of a rooster
& for a whole summer, I could
overhear the gossip of birds.
They talked in numbers mostly.
Though they were terrible at math.
They counted the fruit, incorrectly,
Always thinking there was more than
There was. They counted how
many cats had been seen.
Often I sat under them in the woods
And heard them repeating ‘one’ over
That was the summer before the
earthquake. When I lived at my godmothers
Cabin and the beach was always open.
At night, my godmother slept in a brown
chair behind a brown curtain.
She told me, that in exchange
for what she had fed me
I would have to make maps
of the woods surrounding
Her cabin. I would have to bring
them back for her for her to approve.
It as a difficult work, the map-making.
Things were always further than I thought.
Often, I would draw a line for a road
and then have to scribble it shorter.
Color in a beach and find that
I had placed it behind a series of hills.
At night, I slipped the drawings under
The large, brown curtain. Waited
Until she slid them back with her notes.
Most of them concerned the trees
Which she seemed to think
There should have been more of.
I never finished making the maps.
When my godmother died
I began to see roosters everywhere.
They spoke clearly
about all of their finances.
Telling me plainly
That I owed them one wing.
about the writer
David Freeman is a poet from Long Lake, MN. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, Salamander Magazine, and others. In addition, David co-hosts The Most Haunted Boys in School, a weekly podcast about the supernatural. More information can be found at www.davidefreeman.com