“Boating,” “Twin Sons,” and “Waking to No Child”

Image by


Here on a yacht in the Gulf of Mexico,

as a shrimp boat burrows behind

through the cool, plowed path of our electric motors,

we drink another salty beer, our bare feet

sliding on the damp deck with each ocean wash.

Burnt now between the sun and the gulf,

we have kept ourselves too long from land.

Above the starboard rail, we

bend toward the water

that sings in the dark

of what we came back for: a fishing boat, a cooler of beer,

the slap of the hand of a wave, a kiss the moon stole.

If we could pull back the tar of the sky

and see the fire behind it, could the flames

show our way back to our love? Could we

hold off this time until it cooled? Then

could we drag the deep, deep gulf

for the signs of our days on water,

and take ourselves home?

Atop a trolling pole buzzes one knot of hissing

light, and we look over our shoulders where

a silky strip of silver water unfurls finally

on the shore of Ship Island, what remained of our

picnic dragged away by the gulls.

Our whispers peel and coil about our feet

like dead skin, and we toss our cans

to the sea, watch them twirl

until the blades beneath us suck them under.

We will never return once the gulfspray,

beaded now about our lips,

has slipped down our necks and dried.

Twin Sons

My sons’ socks, matched

and wound tightly

like their two faces,

sat heavy and hard in the hamper

while the day of their going

inched its way into our house.

My sons’ voices, deep and dry,

urgent without message on the line,

lent cadence to my pulse

each week, like a transfusion,

and I felt once more in every vein

the swim of their blood that is mine.

My sons’ letters each Tuesday

slipped their way under my door,

the one in script,

the other in print,

hand in hand

as if called by the same bell.

My sons’ beds, flat and starched,

nestled into a corner of their abandoned room,

propping the walls

against folding together

to hide the space left behind

where their two bodies slept.

My sons’ chairs at the table,

heavy with the smoke of their laughter,

on my left, on my right,

and nightly my eyes

move from space to space,

recalling the reasons I’d prayed.

My body on fire,

my lips held tight,

my arms flaccid and weak.

Could I have known at their births

that my twin sons would duplicate

their father’s one longing?

Waking to No Child

A headline on the doorstep one morning,

Bagged and banded to keep it dry,

brought to the whole town

a baby crying

for all she was worth.

And with that news, my own heart grew hands

that would claim her.

Somewhere in the country, a woman with eyes

long from weeping stitched herself back up,

and one man’s restless night fell about me

like pollen, the promise of his body infiltrating

Us all with our newborn longing.

When a baby lies unnamed at a hospital door,

the whole city her heritage, where will she find home?

Can she suspend her growing, can she uncurl her weighted hands

before they close on her abandonment

long enough for me to slip my finger

Into the space of her hunger?

In my sinister bed of dreams,

a message comes our way from the hospital

ward, where lives are pending,

calling to us to take this child

we find daily in our news,

to bring this child into her room

already papered with the pastel scenery

of balloons, balloons sliding down the walls,

old balloons wrinkling

because our breath is seeping out and singing

into the cold air of the house,

filling all our rooms with the crescendo

Of each long day.

Balloons bobbing on the floor

break with our footfalls

as we move from the crib to the playpen to the changing table.

Our breathing gives out. And once again,

as we lie dying in our beds, barely flinching when the dog

barks from his place beneath the house,

our dreams linger into dawn,

tricking us into just one second of parenthood.

Now pulled clear of waking, we clutch,

my wife and I, to work against the stillness

creeping through our floppy dreams

and to beat it away with the stoney

music of our breath

or the radio jarred loose.

We are calling for a child

to grow, my God, to grow

from the angry grip

of our barrenness.

About the Author

Cleve Latham

I am a teacher and writer in Chattanooga, TN and have published poetry, fiction, and non-fiction in a variety of journals. My debut novel is currently under submission, and I'm working on the second.