Lost at Sea

He saw the night sky crack like a violin

When he first began to drown.

It cut across the string of stars, every single pearl,

Dropping them, one by one, into the cold Atlantic.


Beneath the black waves, he gasped for all the ice in the wind,

Baring his teeth into the howling wolves of winter

As they shook his brain awake, his eyes reddened

And wounded by their torches, the faint fire of salt water

Biting at his dreams.


The ship behind him raised her nose into the darkness

As she flaked the splintered beams from her hull,

Littering the wild water with the bones of war,

Aching at her empty sides.


And still he wheezed, his ribs barbed with thin air,

Filling the tin cup of his heart with gunpowder and rain

As copper blood pumped into his mouth,

Dried and cracking, lined with pewter, rusting as fast as memories.


He struggled like a rag doll against the pitch and pull,

His eyes flickered their spotlights into the iron dark of space,

Motionless and far, a moon quietly pinning it all together


Until every shattered star on the sable swells drifted into view,

Pooling into a dazzling form, a woman

He knew from another world,

One where the fire is low and warm,

The sugar bowl is full,

And her hands are made of sky.


She shimmered in the shine of starlight

And beckoned his wincing eyes to stay awake

Just one hour more

Till all her lovely words could sing him to the shoreline.

To Billy Collins

A tribute to my favorite poet…

It was the lanyard that got me first,

Then came the windows, the dogs, the bowl of pears,

All of your words ambling along my field of vision

Like butterflies

As I gently read your poetry in the different chairs of my life.


I was reclining on a couch in the early morning

When you ate alone in that Chinese restaurant,

When you spoke of Petrarch’s crazy tights,

When you weighed the dog.


Then, during lunch,

Seated at the desk in my classroom,

Carefully selecting the cashews from a little bag,

I read of your autumn leaves,

Your wet umbrella, and your parents.


In the afternoon,

As I stopped by the tire store on my way home,

I found myself, legs crossed lazily,

On the iron frown of a folding chair,

Shoved between the yellowed coffeepot,

Pooled with tepid decaf,

And the large bay window to the garage.


There, as I waited, I read of your constellations,

The dripping stars, the moonlit swans,

And I laughed a bit at the irony

As I looked up to my own heavens

Only to gaze upon panels of flickering light and dead flies.


Late that evening, I shuffled off the petals of a weary day

And nudged my feet deep into the covers of the bed.

My wife softly lay her head beside me,

And I picked up your book to see

The early sun and the old teacher.


But as I reached the final page, I noticed,

Perhaps for the first time,

That all the early suns,

Shining through each rain-soaked pane,

And every cup of tea swam freely in my mind,

Happily treading my stream of consciousness

With Petrarch and the bowl of pears,

Teaching me how to hear.


So I quietly lay down your poetry,

Placed my hand on my wife’s shoulder,

And followed the moonlit swans as they paddled

Deeper into this tender sleep.