Table of Contents - Vol. VII, No. 3
I'm crunched down in a fetal position,
two huge strips of fiberglass
bound to my feet.
It evokes nothing,
not feeling, not memory,
because nothing else in life
is like this,
no incident to look back on and shout,
"Hey, watch me now."
The boat reels forward a little.
First spray kisses my face.
This is where I'm supposed to stand up.
My hands grip tight to the tow rope.
Now that's familiar.
Instructions ringing in my ears.
Whatever you do, hold on.
Yes, there's tongues from here to birth
that have spread that message.
I struggle to unbend my knees.
Boat driver picks up speed,
A young boy whizzes by me
like he's been doing this for more years
than he's been alive.
My skis start slipping sideways.
If I don't get horizontal,
my body may split apart.
Somehow, my spine comes to the rescue,
its legendary straightness
overriding the pugnacity of the crouch.
It reaches back to where bones
were first formed,
recreates them in the air,
drags my flesh up
to surround them.
Suddenly, I'm on my feet
and moving forward,
skimming across the surface.
I have never moved like this before.
The fumbling lover,
has found the right words to say,
the perfect vocation to impress.
But then an unexpected cross-current
rolls up under my skis
and sends me toppling.
I let go the rope,
flounder in the sea.
"Oh yes, " I tell myself,
as my thoughts flay as good as
legs and arms,
"I've been here before."
The boat doubles around,
comes back for rescue.
"Not bad for a first attempt,"
the driver says, as he pulls me aboard.
So that's the secret, I tell myself
Everything's a first attempt.
There's this photo, forty four looks sixty four,
white hair, eyes like old cars stalled, but inching
to go forward in the traffic of his face,
encyclopedia salesman, all that knowledge
in his suitcase, not a whisker in his head,
not then, not now, but cheeks red from
ten thousand times riding into the sun,
and lips primed for repeating the names
of motels, "Town View", "Rest Inn",
"Harbor Vale" but none connected to a town,
just a bed to lie his weary bones in
and feel the emptiness beside him like a corpse,
his corpse, dead of traveling, dead of headache
pills, and moths circling bulbs, filaments
showing off their best light, trying to hawk
those insects something, and a mind thinking
all the time, what's the next sale, what's the next stop,
not suspecting it's this photograph.
© John Grey