Douglas Cole

Children swim in the waters 
around the dock. 
We move through the village 
of meager homes, dirt streets, 
to the temple. 
Someone has placed money 
on the temple steps. 
This is how much to enter. 
I slip some rupiah 
under the stone that holds the money. 
Inside, our guide translates 
the story of Ratu Gede Pusering Jagart, 
the sacred stone that appears 
on the night of 
Purmamaning Sasih Kapat. 
No earthquake has ever hit 
this village, one man tells us. 
In another shrine 
they have a lontar, 
the sacred manuscript of the village, 
carved into a root, so old 
the language is like nothing 
that exists—a story 
no one can read. 
And then the graveyard: 
the dead lie above the ground 
beneath a row of skulls. 
They have little whicker tents 
for covering… 
yellow umbrellas, bits of cloth, 
a brass bowl for offerings. 
On the slope below the graves, 
a heap of remains: bones, clothing, 
more skulls and rotting whicker 
from the old graves. 
Our guide draws on a clove cigarette, 
smoke barely covering 
the smell of decaying flesh. 
We didn't ask to come, 
and he's impatient for his money.

About the Author

Douglas Cole has had work in The Connecticut River Review, Louisiana Literature, Cumberland Poetry Review, and Midwest Quarterly. He has work available online as well in The Adirondack Review, Salt River Review, and Avatar Review, among others, along with a story he recorded for Bound Off. He has work forthcoming in the Red Rock Review and a novella to be issued as a chapbook in the Overtime series of Workers Write Journal. He won the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry for a selection called, "The Open Ward," a Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House and First Prize in the "Picture Worth 500 Words" poetry contest by Tattoo Highway. He lives in Seattle, Washington and teaches writing and literature at Seattle Central College, where he is also the advisor for the literary journal, Corridors.