two swimmers, belloram

There is a song for the dead

and the drowned

the tune of which I can’t remember,

so many seasons from the sea.

Though there was a time

I understood

as my twisted ankle

understands the rain.

After three summers on the Rock,

it came to me

from the breaking thunder

of the surf beyond the cove.


The night before, two fishermen

juiced up on screech

played chicken in the harbour.

Neither man gave in.

They too must have understood

the silent song

as their rubbers sucked up

the inky liquid

like a drunkard’s throat

and pulled them like a sinker

past the schools of startled fish.

It might have lulled them

like the rocking

of their father’s boats

before the sound

of their screaming

lungs opened a hole in the middle

of their faces—a gate of teeth

to sluice the briny drink

and kill the pain.


That same night

after the divers from the RCMP

had dredged the bloated bodies

from their temporary graves

I heard the siren call

to me again—

across the Hellespont of sleep.

I felt her humming softly

in the marrow of my growing bones.

In the bed beside my own

my brother slept as soundly

as the swimmers.

His tiny chest rose and fell

lost to the voice

that pulled me

out the front door

and across the gravel drive

that ended at the fishery,

to the tilted merry-go-round

at the threshold of the sea.


Perhaps it was the light

of the moon, or the cool grass

dew-damp against my toes

that woke me

by the water’s crafty edge.

Perhaps the siren

was sated with her catch

the night before

and offered my mother

a casual reprieve.

In any case,

there is a song

the dead can sing you.

There is a song; there is a song.