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.
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.