After drinks and dinner at The Dockside,
alone by the shore, not wanting
the summer dusk to dwindle further
toward the singular darkness of home,
I watched the last few vessels
grumble out, dead-reckoning on the tide.
Somewhere in sun-glanced haze
the lobstermen’s buoys were calling
like Sirens from atop the swells.
Weeks before, the ruddy flesh
of one I loved, in less than a breath,
had left me adrift, staring at a map
of nowhere. When the boats were gone
I found myself wondering how the ancients
measured from the illusory line at vision’s end
to pinpoint place, a qiblah for every aspiration,
and I began to unroll their words in my mind—
astrolabe, azimuth, apogee—already composing
this page, trying to triangulate a way between
two lands. Dig enough, my Jesuits taught,
through life’s rust and rugged umbers
and they’ll yield a chart, a compass rose
and key. Sextant, zenith, star.
From our bedroom window, each morning’s
horizon curved into boundless exhalation,
as prayer should, before arcing back on itself,
an infinity circumscribed: two lives entwined,
one bobbing speck in the sea. Cor, corpus,
coracle—love was the vessel I believed
should bear us toward our distant destination.
In the twilit air, I tried to reclaim that breath,
flood my lungs with a burning I’d once known
when gladly I let every fixed mark unmoor.
It was then a great blue heron leapt
from the marsh grass beside me, oared up
so close I felt the wingbeats’ quake
of annunciation. Its rising arc tugged me
gasping into the briny nothing of that moment’s
fear, and I followed in the wake,
a silhouette trawling the dusk-deep sky:
its legs two useless rudders, neck
torqued, ungainly, until by sure degrees
the bird tacked toward some roost
beyond night’s smudged horizon
—and every way I turned led home.