The Widower

Craig Raine

His wet waders
dipped in lacquer
by the light,

the lobsterman
puts out to sea
against the tide

that tilts his boat.
From where we stand,
up on the dunes,

his wicker pots
have dwindled already
to balls of twine,

but for five minutes,
saluting the sun
out of our eyes,

we watch him knit
with clumsy oars,
while the waves

unravel their length,
this way, that way,
on the beach below ...

Have we come here
to forget
her funeral,

or have we come
to hold her memory
intact again?

Seeing jelly fish
like wilted Dali watches
all along the shore,

who can tell
what dispensations
are possible in time?

She might still be here,
I sometimes feel,
walking slowly

back to the cottage:
there are ghosts
in the hedge

where sheep press through.
I pat the solid sand
until it liquifies

beneath my foot,
reminding me
of how the world

was turned to water
by the candle flame
beside her coffin,

how a crucifix
shuddered
and stonework drowned

as the priest looked on
with midnight hands
at ten in the morning.

What is real?
The congregation slipping
their spectacles on

to sing the hymn?
The straining bearers
like a string quartet,

taking the burden up
in unison, at a nod
from their leader?

Those whitened fingertips?
The widower rambles,
unburying shells

with his alpenstock.
Specs on his forehead,
he brings each one

close to his better eye,
before discarding
nearly everything.

Somewhere in my head
she is pushing aside
her breakfast tray.

I can see her smile,
a timeless crumb
of yolk

precarious
in the hairs
beside her mouth.