Where the swale widens to the beach
and dune grass gives way to open sand,
my dogs have exhumed the body
of a harbor seal. Mummified
by wind, black-spotted fur flakes
off skin stretched over brown bones.
I find the pelvis, a femur, and four ribs.
Vertebrae bloom like flowers
on the damp sand. Each in its place,
I lay all that I’ve gathered:
Phalanges still connected by ligaments,
tibia and fibula together, scapula above,
ribs in rows down the spine.
With a driftwood spade, I set to work.
The odor of death blends with the scent
of kelp on the wind, with smoke
from a fire farther up the beach,
with the calls of gulls who hang
suspended in the air. A barrow rises
over the bones, ringed with stones
rolled smooth in the surf. Above,
clouds soar to the curving edge of the earth.