I stand against the tide’s advance, akimbo,
and I raise my arms, commanding the water
back into the clouds, a heavy rain drop
dropping scores of fish like derelict dreams.
Silver gray fish drop and flop among the detritus,
plop among the yellowed flipper and soda pop can,
they gasp and gape among the old boat ruins,
wriggling life among those things long dead.
I lower my arms and let the flying sea fall back,
back down to the seaweed and the sandbars,
back over the boats and beer bottles bygone,
interring again in a single, solemn rite by the shore.
And I walk away, my magic spent and wrenched,
the sea lapping at me like a metronome, and I dream
about wriggling life again among those things
cast away at the bottom of my soul.
I wondered, as a child, where they all were,
my parents’ friends absent from our home.
Why did they not have friends like me,
why were they instead all oddly alone?
And now I sit and count the grand old days,
where this and that happened, and some more,
but I’m visited by pregnant silences often now,
no one knocking on my willing front door.
I hear from them, still, yes, at times —
jobs, kids, trips, all manner of fun.
Everyone spiraling away into darkness,
calling that phase over and done.
And we gather our grief, our youthful losses,
exchanging them for mortgages and sex,
becoming the quiet adults we all saw,
and wondering what life will bring to us next.
My husband and I read alone and together at night,
separated by feet and worlds, and by the fire light.
We do not speak but tell a quiet tale in glances,
with cups sipped in our respective bookish trances.
My captain’s ship has sunk, a whale torn asunder,
while husband reads of a great economic blunder.
And I can pause and consider our literary dance,
or how we fell in love, oh just by so much chance.
Maybe one day I can write of that love, chapter and line,
with tales of his patience, laugh, and similar kind.
But for now I’ll keep reading my heavy epic tale,
wondering if the captain, without love, must chase the whale.
Behind the nods and the smiles,
just underneath the winks and hellos,
swim the hunters of our happiness —
the defects in our soul.
And we sit in our easy chairs, and sip
our glasses of tea with a sweaty lip,
letting the sun hit our face,
while our shame buzzes our ear a bit.
Then our jowls shake out of sync,
dragging our eyelids down and pink,
and for a moment the sun we lose,
leaving only ourselves to abuse.
Strobing lights shining in front,
the parade of cars lumbered past,
of old ladies wearing bright flowers
and black dresses of a certain caste.
To the syncopation of my blinker,
I waited and watched, listening,
struck dumb to the dark sight
of death’s recent christening.
As the painful parade went on,
sad faces drooped and dropped longer;
I sat and waited at my turn,
and my resentment grew stronger.
From those stopped and staring patiently,
what did the ashen faces want,
as their bald wheels moseyed down
on their morning mourning jaunt?
Our choral respect for the dead
quickly passed, forgotten, buried,
in my heart a rising passion
and a pain in my swiveled head.
Impotently looking for a break,
I sat and waited some more,
to cut home with my groceries
and get on with the daily chores.
The last long sedan passed, waving flags,
and I whipped around the corner, gunning gas,
snarling at my torturous wait,
driving in zigs and zags fast.
I bundled up my hurt little man
and tucked him at last neatly away,
knowing how awful and ugly he is,
until I need him again another day.
Peter J. McDonald sat on the bench and stared,
stared at the birds and the park and the bus,
all the people walking by and by,
not really making a fuss.
Peter J. McDonald took out his pack on his lap,
fished out a sandwich and took a bite,
chewing in time with a squirrel,
and it felt pretty right.
Peter J. McDonald took a sip and then stopped,
pausing to think about his last marriage,
pausing to wonder what went wrong,
but of her he could only disparage.
Peter J. McDonald kept on eating on the bench,
watching two little girls play Twister,
and he finished his lunch and decided
he’d never again marry his sister.
White rounded teeth jut from the ground,
rolling beyond the hill
and not making a sound.
Rows of carved teeth carry ever on,
winding all directions,
naming those that have gone.
And I see Major Thomas White,
quiet for five decades,
morning, noon, and all night.
All alone and with your stone friends,
whom did you love, Major,
whose world did you upend?
Is she still out there now, tonight,
dreaming the life denied
and holding you so tight?
Or have you now slipped and faded,
become just this cold stone,
signaling a love abated?
I will stand here and for you pray
that in your too short time
love never did betray.