“At Sea” by Erik Carlsen

My father and I went out on the boat

To scatter her ashes where we set the crab pots

So that when the rest of the family asks

Where we scattered her ashes, we can say

That we scattered them where we set the crab pots

And they will know.


A lot of the ashes blew into my hair.

The pieces clung to my hair like a field of white crosses.


My grandfather could do pullups with his fingertips.

He gave me stitches when I was a child. I do not even remember

Being hurt.


We set the crab pots where my grandfather did.

He would yell at my father how my father yells at me,

To pull faster, count faster. I got pinched by one of the crabs

And still kept counting. I counted until my fingernail fell off.


The ashes were my grandmother’s and there was very little of them.

If she had died a week earlier, I think there would have been more.

The color of them were hyacinths by the fire, they smelled the same too.


I did not like seeing the oil leaking from the boats motor

Mixing with the ashes in the water. I did not like my grandfather

Telling me stories from the war. Why do I know how a man looks

After he has gone through the propeller of a navy ship?


He does not look like the ashes of my grandmother.

He looks like sardines in olive oil scattered in the water,

Like food for birds.


Erik Carlsen is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and was born and raised in Tacoma.