Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Chelsea Rathburn: "A Raft of Grief"

The raft that means 'a great number' is not related
at all to the raft that carries people or their possessions
in the water. The two words are homonyms. 
—Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins

If only there were a boat,
low and long and loaded
with all we'd brought or built:
the fatal inattentions,
anxieties and tics
that time had sanctified,
our good and bad intentions,
rages, lapses, and aches.
If only it were that easy,
to stand only ankle-
deep in the sullied water
hoisting our shared cargo,
sinking no further beneath
its weight. If only the boat
did not need a rower;
we'd push it off together
then wade to opposite banks
absolved at last, forever,
buoyant, watching it go.

"A Raft of Grief" by Chelsea Rathburn. Text as published in A Raft of Grief: Poems (Autumn House Press, 2013). Reprinted by poet permission.

Art credit: "Bamboo Raft on Li River," photograph by Didier Marti. From the caption: "Located in Yangshuo countryside near City of Guilin, China."


  1. A poignant piece, Chelsea, all too honest, all too believable....I think of an alternative ending that might be equally realistic:
    "then wade to shore, together,
    absolved at last..."


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