This is the sound the sea makes beside the dead.
You have been standing here for hours, Man, blue-
eyed and sleepy. Is the sand not hot? Do you lose
sense of your animal limbs in your erect posture
when you observe the curve of my flesh (around
to its other half), a philosophy of wilting blubber?
You did not know you were looking for me. Black-
night flies crawling on me (swarming was your word)
which hop slightly with a breeze, and pause and lift
from eating my flesh, my iris. This is the sound
of rusted night. How many of the living have you
ignored, those who cross your shadow? You walk
this beach, casual across my grave. I will become
bones soon enough. I will offer them to this gravel
world even with you watching: this red skin, rotting
curve, stinking tail without gender, this sunken eye.
I’ve decided to lie my way to happiness.
Like I once did, awake into the night
working through images of the to-be older
self wearing dark sweaters, riding a black
bicycle, and crossing a brick campus—busy
and purposeful. That man full of the star’s
ache. That boy full of child-projections, I saw
myself so clearly now, that age actually,
I’m a complete blur—an afterimage of sun
shaking across retinas. I tick my way
through these memories as an end-of-day
answering machine inbox. Sip by sip I drink
the bitter green tea. I say, “no one damaged you,
see, there is the evening sun,” because it does not
matter the world is sad, but that it comes
to sadness through those small cones falling
into grass and through the brittle leaves lifting
in an abstract play of wind scurrying across the road.
My theories are as long ignored as Levin’s
between marriage proposals staring at land and sky.
The world brings itself in the possum living
beneath the deck, who I imagine myself kicking
one night in a shudder of fear. I’ve seen my lightning
struck tree. I know what not to imagine, know the call
and the question are both empty. The terns
hurried shrieking scythes through the evening air
when quiet means, actually means, that though I
cannot see it, or always smell it, I live near the sea.
Below the bridge is a mid-sized
sperm whale, a mother
wandered up the Klamath
with her calf by some instinct
for the unknown towards
a rush of cold water or shackle
of green watery light;
now she circles back and around
again under the crowd
taking pictures, her breaths
bursting at intervals made
regular by the mind and she
will not leave, even as her skin
tears in need of salt, even as her calf,
loyal only to the railing of good sense,
breaches the mouth of the river
and back—further and further
each day, even when she cannot
hear his song, faint—then fainter—
even if she believes it is him
in the current’s echo of her own voice.
Photo of sunlight on seashore dunes courtesy Shutterstock.