To Inscribe

By Anne Starling

Featured Art: A Holiday by Edward Henry Potthast

The dead are with us to stay
                  —Charles Wright


But not the living, the fallible breathing.

For a while it seemed one thing
could be righted. One small piece at the
ocean’s bottom corner
or the bottom
dresser drawer with the scuffed
baby shoes and shoeboxes
               full of snapshots of kid parties, holidays, school picnics
               etcetera.

A comfort, even knowing that wrong
can’t be undone, is more like oceans plural
rushing in
               weighing in with their trick of
                no light, unfathomable.

The idea was to inscribe
the back of the photograph taken
on our last anniversary.
                        Simply to write, in everyday
permanent ink
his name                in the possessive
                then “Mom and Dad.”

It’s a nice photo, the kind he might tuck
in his dresser mirror, or a wife might frame
                        to display

in a family grouping.

Thus, what you can’t tell just by looking
would be salvaged

and the flotillas taking on water
permanently in our hearts and minds and

stomped- flower souls (assuming souls) would
what?
                  Seal over.
                        Find themselves some ballast or balance.

Little wooden, un-steerable things.


Anne Starling grew up on the east and west coasts, and in Japan. After earning a BA and MA in English, she became a social worker. Starling returned to her first love, poetry, in 2015. She lives with her jazz musician husband in northeast Florida.

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