Emily W Pease


In your old iron bed you died alone. I was not there
but I knew the bed and I knew the room. Thin

damp mattress, concrete floor polished smooth,
salt-sprayed windowpanes white as bone. In

the morning you were found there, already gone.
What your grown sons had done—

having moved away, they found a stranger to cook
for you, clean, bathe and dress you. Still

you died alone. As do we all, I can hear you say,
clicking your tongue. In your kitchen sink,

a basin of eels. On your stove, a pot of vinegar
steaming. Later, after sundown, you sit

inside your porch, screened walls weathered
black, and listen for the sound of the fire horn.

Out on the cut, a lone boat glides over water.
Beneath lantern light: flounder giggers.

Beaufort was all you knew: flat land, fish breeze,
your father’s callused fingers sewing sails.

Wild horses roamed the spit. Some nights, you’d see
their shadows under the light of the moon,

pawing for fresh water. Fresh water—even your faucet
spilled salt. No wonder you were tough.

When your husband died, you carried on. You lost
a front tooth, accepted the dark hole

left behind. I was maybe ten when I first slept
with you: after you became a widow,

burrowing in the cold empty side of your bed.
A streetlight gleamed in your chipped

mirror like the eye of a ghost. I felt you breathe
beside me, your thin ribs lifting with each

shallow breath. A curtain floated over the window
in the warm night breeze, and your long bosom

drooped beneath your loose gown. On your pillow,
your wild gray hair.