For Your Safety, Please Extinguish All Flames While On Board the Vessel
Just ahead of our ferry boat
a second vessel bends to pass us.
If water craft could make love
this would not be the prelude–
the wrapping of arms around thick necks
the rising tide of moist lips meeting.
Without a cable to guide our motion
we would rock and thrash until both
ships split wide open, spilling their cargo
into the furious blue-black passion below
(waters we were hoping to avoid). Like us
the ferries are engine-driven. We move
without moving, pleased for the glad-handing
from one shore to the next. The ferries are spooning
molding to fit the other’s form, the end always in sight.
From the far side of the raft
there is no stopping the fish hook
from entering her arm. Sun-bleached
canvas grabs the bait, the bass escapes
and one strong mother-tug sends fish
line flying, sinks the barb.
Without its anchor
(clumsy knot come lose)
the floating hulk would have sailed
into the bay, maybe.
Wade to your knees
and you could drag it to shore.
…………..As the mother, it is her duty
…………..to perform daily rescues.
Today a water vessel,
tomorrow a pair of frogs
eight legs tangled in a net.
That was the summer when things could be saved.
When she fell from a stool
reaching for the last bushel bag of apples
on the top shelf
the doctor said back strain,
said, chest x-ray, just as a matter of course.
…………..As a woman, it is her duty to nod and agree.
…………..Yes. Those are spots on my lung.
…………..Her way to be ashamed at the grime in her body,
…………..mindful she should have scrubbed harder
…………..at least worn a clean pair of lungs to this appointment.
Driving past hay fields
and acres of milk cows
on the way to the big city hospital
she tastes the cup of black coffee
she did not drink that morning
inhales the sweet tobacco scent
of the cigarette she did not sneak
before her husband started the car
before her daughter climbed in the back
before the day she could not perform
her own rescue as the surgeon sunk his barb.