A Raft of Grief

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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.

Chelsea Rathburn's first collection of poems, The Shifting Line, received the Richard Wilbur Award in 2005. She lives in Decatur, Georgia.
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