Martha Serpas

Double Effect: December 31
January 23, 2021 Serpas Martha

Double Effect: December 31


Goodbye Year-I-Almost-Died
the bridge closes behind you
in closing to you
it opens to me, a foreseeable
but unintended consequence
of your passing
the one-armed tender drunk
and mending nets
will wave me through
Year-I-Almost-Died, I pass you
the peace
one day I’ll forget who you are
Down the bayou
I make the veillé
turn down a shell road
I get down at the levee
I like to sit on the grass
and be with the stars
I still like to drive the colors
wild I like to pray
bromeliads on fire
I curse and bless you
for all your magic
and all your monstrosities
the lizard that eats its own skin
the fern flaring after rain
And nights I laid my back on the waves
I laid my hands at my side
the darkness erasing the tracers
I stood on silver guardrails
I swallowed the streetlights
the coyotes in the mist-draped field
you were that promising date
that began with a chilled corsage
and ended on a rainy doorstep without a kiss
you were that toast, that pyrotechnic
display and its acrid smell
we slept together in a twin bed
while the dog curled on the floor
O what a better companion he is
he rounds my sleep
and covers my dreams
the bridge closes behind you
and in closing it opens for me

Martha Serpas is the author of three collections of poetry, The Diener (LSU); The Dirty Side of the Storm (Norton); and Côte Blanche (New Issues). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Southwest Review, and Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, as well as in a number of anthologies, including the Library of America’s American Religious Poem and The Art of the Sonnet. She holds degrees in English and creative writing from Louisiana State, New York University, and the University of Houston, and a master of divinity from Yale Divinity School. A native of south Louisiana, she remains active in efforts to restore Louisiana’s wetlands. Since 2006 she has worked as a trauma chaplain at Tampa General Hospital. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at The University of Houston