Island Inbreeding

by Cornelia Rohde

…the lilies were standing
on their calm, cob feet,
each in the case
of a single, waxy body
…and I swear I pitied them, as I looked down
into the theater of their perfect faces—
that frozen, bottomless glare.

“The Snow Cricket”, Mary Oliver

He lives alone,
face shut tight as his
simple wooden house
built two hundred years ago,
time enough
for cousins to marry cousins
in this far off fishing village.

Handhewn shutters propped by sticks,
windows cracked open in the heat–
he can’t look out;
no one glances in.
It must be dark inside.
Three clumps of pink lilies
nod in the yard his mother planted
when she was alive.
A single chair on the
the bare porch
holds unhusked coconuts,
left there by giving neighbors.
Over time the pile diminishes
and is replaced.

Once I saw him in the water at high tide
across from the old graveyard.
His lumpy grey swim trunks
dried on his wash line.
Some days he goes walking,
stiff and hatless,
thin hair trim, blue shirt clean,
eyes vacant,
looking at nothing,
simply moving down the road
toward a place he does not see.


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