Letter to the Wild Blue Yonder

Some sailors should live forever,
Not because they are great or even good, but because
They sweep you up into a story until it becomes your own,
And a word like South is not just a direction
But an island floating inside a compass rose
Commanding you to sail the white-sprayed coast.
At 88, my father can’t sleep. Can’t eat.
And he’s ready for the deep six. But I say no,
Yes, maybe to his desire, thinking, unlike the geese
Scrabbling south into the late October flyway,
He doesn’t know where the iron winds lead,
Over what stubble a ship is stripped of her keel timbers.
I wake and find clouds anchored with charcoal-smudged
Underbellies and ivory-white puffy tops,
Each one a continent of ice beveled into steel-blue.
Faith or no faith, who can say where the body travels
After the running lights turn down into troughs?
As I watch him in memory sea-booted on a rolling deck,
Loving the harness of a storm, how you can’t match it
With any hurt or gladness, only merge with it
Until it blows itself out, I think I will miss most
His blue eyes dredged from looking far into salt,
And not seeing why we came to this illogical dimension
Of love long sought for, found and let go
invisibly before we know how to hold it all.
What’s left of a life lived at the water’s edge?
Sea and wind. A few gulls scattered like torn pages
Over the undertow. Nothing audible except
The arrival and departure of the oldest rhythms.
My sister, who claims to have already touched
The mother-shell of heaven, says he’ll find the way home
Even though he never once polished his Sunday shoes.
In your soul, she tells me, you’re free to travel anywhere --
So he’ll consult his tidebook, see when the slackwater
Gives passage to the wild blue yonder and he’ll be there,
Among other sailors telling stories, some of them true
And lovely and long enough to bring the morning on.