The Oysters in Oysterville Are Delicious

Kary Wayson

The house behind the house I’m sitting

wears a window at its waist:

sky, bay, better days—straight

through the fronts and backs of both houses, I can see

—like a skipped rock—like a

sniper’s shot—a body

going down

the mown-grass path to a pile of shells

as tall and wide as a room.

Any chamber can be used as a burial place.

(My love, our home, a tomb.)

November, December, January, Feb—

broke, no job, suddenly old, every lead

grew cold and congealed (my soul

in aspic while I scrolled).

Unmeeting—or mating—eating

unseen, I’ve come again (wounded, depressed, in spring) up

the peninsula to visit the tip.

(The oysters in Oysterville are indeed delicious.)

Here I get my news from the headstones.

Sidney’s husband died last year.

There lies he in the vicinity of the Espys.

(I think she might follow him soon.)

I know we’re each (not) unique, but let me let me

think me so. (Let me lick in pornographic secret

peanut butter from a spoon I stole.)

While everywhere the upshots of daffodils—

and the frogs go (damp and clamor) on.

In the pioneer graveyard I saw my own headstone—

Lucky to be born at all.

How did this poem begin for you?

I started this poem during a week I spent at a good friend’s house in the tiny town of Oysterville at the tip of Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. The opening paragraph of Richard Dawkins’s Unweaving the Rainbow had pulled me through some hard days that spring, and the gist of it showed up as the poem’s last line. It felt strange to finish a poem on my own epitaph (which I’ve always thought should read “Hates the Dirt”). It’s not a move I saw coming, but I think it might work! Here’s the Dawkins quote:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

—Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion, and the Appetite for Wonder

Kary Wayson is the author of two books: The Slip and American Husband. She lives and works as a poetry teacher and freelance editor in Port Orchard, Washington, across the water from Seattle, where she is a reviews editor at Poetry Northwest.
Originally published:
June 12, 2024


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