Dec 6, 2023


Now the boat plows on—

the ocean heaving like a breast

laboring for breath—

a black flag beating from its bow,

past cliff sides

dotted with green,

shrubs like tumbleweeds

blown down from above.


Beyond, the city skyline—

skyscrapers sheered off by mist,

the shoreline shrouded in fog,

the bridge running off

into oblivion,

while the sea ripples like gooseflesh

under the wind.


When he was laid out,

a nurse told Arlen

he was a handsome man,

which pleased her,

though she had never thought so herself.

The nurses who shaved him every day

had let a mustache grow,

which became him, Arlen said,

and he had a sweet,

almost cherubic expression

in death.


Soon the sun breaks through,

turning the water to mercury,

and the sky is blue,

the clouds erased,

leaving wisps like chalk dust.


The boat stops

and we gather at the railing

while an attendant dumps

the contents of a brown plastic canister


a cascade of mortal debris.


It wasn’t until the nurse told me

I had to leave

that his limp fingers

tightened around mine.

Though his eyes never opened,

he hung on

and on.

She said again that I had to leave,

but he gripped my hand

and wouldn’t let go.


At latitude ____, longitude ____,

Harry came to rest,

once witty, reclusive, erudite, kind,

but sodden now,

rocking gently

on a wave.