A man is never lost at sea.
In the distance, I see
boats returning to shore, long
waves forming as they ride along
the horizon. They run from the promise
of storms, but all I feel
is the sigh of a western breeze
and the gentle hand of the sun placing
its palm on my chest. I wish I could fish.
This would be the day
that fishing could resolve
every thought swimming in my head.
To catch and release, let my line sag in the calm
waves, knowing a fish
might swim from the promise
of a storm as well. Then I might wait for
the slightest nibble and tug to jerk me from a nap
or an idle thought,
so I can pull at my line,
wind it as the pole bows in strain
and guess just how big the fish will be.
Then, a rumble
of thunder snaps me to,
and reminds me that dreaming
of fishes and nibbles can’t turn away a storm.
The fading sun warms up the sand ahead
as we climb down the stairs from our beach house,
and my old knees don’t hold like they used to
so I keep my hand firm on your shoulder.
You guide me toward the sandy beach below
and shrug your shoulder from my grasp. You may
not know the sun creates a halo for
your silver hair to shine in, but I will
not tell you that now. I am seeing what
I am about to leave behind. The smile
your wrinkles form around your mouth are those
that you would make when I had stroked your cheek
on summer nights staring out at the beach.
Your silver spindles call upon feelings
I’m fighting. As you form your first “goodbye”
I start to feel the sand burn on my soles
like tiny embers flaring in the wind.
I walk you from our beach to where you parked
and as you sit, I say, “I will miss you,”
and realize that those words are not enough
to take a muscle trained for forty years
and allow it to atrophy. Why, then,
could we make it this long? And why can’t we
find a weight to keep the muscle moving
and pumping on for just a few more years?
Still, though I try, I cannot see you here
and either of us still making those light
summer smiles. The papers signed, your sigh says
that word again, “goodbye,” then nothing. I
hear it float like a cloud of sand to sea
as you leave. When I walk back into our–
my living room, there are footprints trailing
me on the carpet. Light imprints left by
my burning soles and my wavering knees.
Each grain as small as a word you whispered
in my ear on swollen summer nights; they
bind together on the living room floor.
I think of cleaning up the footprints, but
I know there will still be grains of sand left.