by Hesse Phillips
—in memory of Dave Pierce
When the vigil was over, and “The Parting Glass” was sung,
We set our burning candles on the picnic table,
And let white wax drip between the boards.
That table became your coffin,
Because we had no body to bury.
For days afterwards, no one dared disturb it.
Sepulchral, quiescent, it loomed above us while
We sprawled in the grass, eating from trays.
The cleaners had scraped the wax away,
Still, it glowed for us, though black and rotten.
I remember when it became a table again.
I watched a girl slam down her tray
With defiance, and uneasy laughter.
She and her friends swung their legs over the benches,
As if to throw a saddle on our too-wild grief.
Someone brave said to them, “Don’t you know
It’s like you’re picnicking on his grave?”
They replied, “Fuck off. It’s just a table.”
Wars have been fought over similar disagreements.
The hatred I felt for those people
Was worse, almost, than the grief; and the disgust
They returned on us, equally savage. Against them
We had to win. So, when a tree-planting was planned
Up on the hill in your memory,
We took our crusade down to the lawn,
To rob back the relic they’d stolen from us.
Because something would be buried on the hill that day,
But we had no coffin to carry.
With ease, the table lifted, the light work of many hands.
The shadow it left lasted months: yellowed grass, waxed
White in the snow of our strange, new faith,
Which only fire could melt.
"I believe these three poems all deal with sacrifice in some way, as they are about grief - for the loss of a loved one, the loss of innocence, or the loss of one's own life. The forms range from structured - as in "October 2003," which is autobiographical and has evolved over the nearly two decades since a friend's death - to experimental. "
- Hesse Phillips
About the poet:
Hesse Phillips is a poet and writer. They feature in Erato Magazine's second issue, Sacrifice, as well as other literary publications such as the Roi Fainéant Press.