Dylan, you were young. Who dares refute
the sacred words of poets who die young?
Your passion flaming into script,
you forged mores of death for august men.
I am not young, and not a man; absolve me,
fierce one. For I
have seen my mother close her eyes in peace
as her pain ebbed and I have seen my father
slump gratefully against his chair in ultimate fatigue.
There was no rage. There will be no rage. I will go gentle
into that good night. Behind my eyelids there will be
a velvet dusk to sheathe the rumples of my soul.
The wash of Lethe will cool the fevered angst
of my finality. In that dark, if there glints
a reliquary of regrets, within, the tiny heads of flagellum
will be clean of punished flesh and blood,
will tumble light like little stones enumerating
lessons learned – the thwart of kind words never spoken,
untruths told and negligent betrayals, granted
clemency in that good night. Upon my forehead
may there press a kiss, profound embrace
of all my loves. May it be I feel a hand in mine,
in that one hand the hundred hands
of those I’ve loved, the gentle loosening as I go.
You were young, Dylan, and not a woman.
Fierce one, absolve me.
This calving: no bleat or blood upon the straw,
no slick newborn struggling to wobbly stance.
This is ice, spawning with abandon, its sundering cleavages
brilliant under the sun,
its thunderous drop, the plunge,
the bucking and rearing in aquamarine slurry,
now groaning in the violence of watery labour,
now whispering spindrifts, now susurrating shhh.
This park bench, waist deep: iron curlicues splash-spangled,
patient as a birthing chair, lap lapped gentle,
its wet beckons: come, shuck your shoes, you nymph in molt,
peel off your socks, skin-shedding serpent of the sea.
Succumb to lavish flow.
Beneath the ripples, cross your ankles,
twine your calves as one, a mermaid curve,
your follicles her scales. Thirty million years
it was from fins to arms and legs
to pedicures and manicures in Pink Tutu or French.
Now glide you deep with torque of tail,
your hair like trailing weed;
From lungs to lips to wavelet,
stream your changeling lullabye
to those you leave behind, whose tears will dry
and on their faces leave a rime of salt.
Callista Markotich has been a teacher, principal and Superintendent of Education in Eastern Ontario. Retired, she lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where Lake Ontario tips into the Saint Lawrence River. Her poetry appears in Arc (Award , June, 2021), Grain, Prairie Fire, The New Quarterly, Room (Award, 2019), and in several ezines and anthologies.