because while some truths lend themselves to equations, others are best described in verse

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Navigation by night under no stars

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We passed the New Year
being rocked
on open water by the warm thrum
of the ferry engine, one
of two couples on board
counting down seconds
by cellphone glow,
wondering what it presaged
to tick over a year with no earth
beneath our feet, the ink
of possibility all around us.

An hour earlier, the ferry we should have caught
had t-boned a commercial fishing vessel.
Coast guard called and all.
Never heard a word about victims,
or survivors, though we scanned
the dark for a trace of leftover sirens,
grateful for the lone flash
of the Hatteras light’s bright pulse
on the horizon of our retinas.

Next morning some miles north,
in the shadow of the tower
and the keeper’s old quarters, just
where the waves kiss the sand, leaving
white tide marks like lipstick
stains on the drizzled shore, a shark
with skin the color of dirty snow
lay floundering, line’s cruel end
sunk deep in the cartilage of its palate.
It had been a battle of hours,
up and down the beach, a pair
of fishermen taking turns at a reel
pulled taut over slate gray,
two against one until the fish,
exhausted, heaved up under open air.

How the crowds came running—
a four-foot white
could chew off a child’s leg,
after all—the fishermen whooping
and shoulder-slapping. They’ll throw it back,
you said, as we walked away, into the mists,
inconsequential as the rain; just
another ship passing
in the night, turning
away from another little tragedy,
the saddest thing I had ever seen.

On the back page

Two bull moose, locked
rack to rack
like the knotted ribbon
of old love letters, sunk
in the slough of Unalakleet.
Their forms, frozen
still in battle,
were unearthed weeks later
under eight inches of ice
as two men toured the Bible camp grounds.
Miles south, months
before and after,
a cowhide-booted doctor
who farms loneliness outside Laredo
is fighting the desert
for the dried out bodies
of the hopeful,
their morgued hearts
still seeking, the rich
brown of them borne
to dye the shallows
of the Rio Grande.
They, too, wrote love letters,
found folded on their bones
in old jean pockets;
how could they know
every breath was an apology?
Like the moose, no one told them
where the color of our eyes
goes when we die,
that if we let our hands
speak for themselves,
they would say with their velvet tongues
that love is a thin and slippery
everything, not buried deep
enough.

You will know because the moon will weep blood

He never wanted. You
will understand
what the trees
are whispering, Japanese
maple leaves falling
by gaslight, branches that shudder
let nothing harm her as they bare
their bark to the night.
Sirens sound, red
as the cherry of a clown’s nose;
there are footsteps
behind the doorways
and bodies, still,
under our feet; ghost
and more-than-ghost of train,
echoes of fathers
gone off decades back,
gone off and never come home.
Let nothing harm her, he said,
and now she hangs
Christmas lights the color
of bruises, mourning
some lost innocence, some lost
season, the world
turned dark as an air raid
blackout except
for the moon, except
for the sirens. Naked,
the trees are whispering
against the river, shadow
on shadowed water:
you will understand. Under the hill,
the breath of a train whistle,
the silence of a grave.
He never wanted to go.
Girls make a game
of kissing by the tunnel mouth,
missing the solace
of their daddies’ knees.
Please let nothing harm her.
No one laughs at clowns anymore.

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