A Remarkable Wreck — Kevin Casey

As we noticed in the streets a handbill headed, “Death! one hundred and forty-five lives lost at Cohasset,” we decided to go by way of Cohasset.

                                                                                                                            Thoreau’s Cape Cod


Our thinning hair thickened with sea spray,
we sat within earshot of the tide rising
on the ocean side, waves like foaming steps
that were piled each upon another
as they fought to climb closer to the dunes.

Small minds discuss people, but the aged

may discuss the dead without reproach:
He had a good run was the sentiment
we passed amongst ourselves like the cocktails
on the restaurant’s small deck. A few stories
that featured our friend—no signs of grief,
only a sober dispatch of anecdotes—
then we left the salty air for the gulls to fill.

With so small a ripple made in our crew

by his commonplace death, I decided
as the sun sank in the bay behind
that when it was time I should be spoken of—
an empty hulk having foundered at last—
I would not have rotted, bilge water burdened,
tied fast to some dock. Nor would I oblige
the misplaced censorship of decency
as a vessel breached and flooded from within,
scuttled by my own hand in despair.

Instead, I would be a remarkable wreck,

thrashed against the shallows off Nonamesset
in the midnight thundering of the surf
as it pounded the shoals that ring Coffin Rock—
beacon be damned, and the buoy’s rebuke.

And the sunrise grazing the skull of West Chop

would lay bare my shattered oaken keel,
the hull’s splintered ribs. The mast that had pointed
heavenward like a steeple would lay buried
in the kelp and rock-weed, as cormorants stood
on the barnacled granite, their wings raised
like the ebony surplice of a priest,
a requiem played by dawn’s gentle swells
that mingled with the tolling of Naushon’s bells.


Kevin Casey is the author of Ways to Make a Halo (Aldrich Press, 2018) and American Lotus, winner of the 2017 Kithara Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2018). And Waking… was published by Bottom Dog Press in 2016. His poems have appeared in Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Connotation Press, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Ted Kooser’s syndicated column ‘American Life in Poetry.’