Sanding the Hull
When we were sanding the sailboat’s weathered hull,
layer upon layer of life and its subjects up for grab,
we talked of raising the sails on Silver Lake or Half Moon,
of strawberries lifting beneath shade plants in the yard,
and of slant-six engines, push-button controls, the Rambler.
Who knew that, in ten years’ time, he’d be dead, the brown spots
on his lungs inching wider, those years of smoking cigarillos
in bodegas, when the need to drink and dance prevailed.
I crocheted a gold blanket to stave off bony chills,
each stitch laced with twists of whispered prayers.
When he was gone, they cleared his office; his widow,
his secretary hunched over piles of letters he’d hidden, locked
in the bottom drawer, its key hung on the hook near the door—
letters filled with more conversation: the poems of Neruda,
an article or book review, a recipe, math, or jokes,
our wide-ranging minds never settled or calm. His words
stream through to me now, les bon mots, or sage advice,
a caution, hint or path to shun. Directions to the market,
how to build a pergola, praise for my latest poems, more praise.
There’s never a warning, just his voice in my ear, slight bell
on a wisp as I breeze along. In my laughter now, I hear him. I see
his wry grin, that nose, that graying beard. I hoist my glass to shadow
reminders, to green-gray waves that lap against the bow of memory.
Those eyes softly pierced as crows’ feet and fret lines creased the planes
of his cheeks. His face reminds me to throw back my head and howl.