We passed the New Year
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.
wherein i grow cozy in the glow of lies,
my skin safe, my breath a purr even
as fall falls, the skies deepening their blue:
cornflower, cobalt, sapphire; darken
to the slate of reckoning season, & i
have counted these shades before—
they are a luck charm to hang
over the headboard, a warding like the spray
bottle i use on the cat. our river spills
its tears over burnt summer
banks, burying the rocks in their sea-dreaming,
making bitter waterfalls of our riverpaths.
the gutters overflow, seeping into the walls,
leaving stains in the corners around the bed
where i watch the season change by the fade
of its tan lines.
the shallow wading pool of past, its pink
mermaid-clad collapsible sides filled
with dead grapevine Mom wrestled
from the cage-wire fence & sunk
in its bathwater depths to be made more
pliant for the working. Once I buried
a burn there, dip’t surreptitiously
from a showoff jump on Old Miss Judy’s
just-rid bike, my shiny white shin in stark
relief to the gap-black teeth of her red-
haired grandson. I remember, too, the stains
of walnuts that fell like dull tennis balls
all around the pool’s pressed grass;
a quarter a bucket all Indian summer long
while Mom cut & shaped & dried
under the shade of the bitter leaves.
I keep one of those wreaths cornered
in the utility closet under winter coats,
still, dusting its thick ribbon & fluffing
up the bow after every first frost has passed.