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Walter Foster, Lifeboatman

John Reibetanz
From:   Ashbourn. Montreal: Véhicule Press, 1986, pp. 58-60

Look in the water and listen:
the sea will whisper
your name to nothing

and shiver the crystal face.
A sniff will finish you.
Fifty years past

a few spoonfuls
pooled in my mother's lungs
and lapped over her life.

Each rasping pull
a sack of stones, dragged up
to rush to collapse

but she always rallies.
The flash and roar
of her fires feed on water.

On moonless nights
she stops her lovers' breath,
gluts them down neat

and in the morning spews
the shells—shoes,
empty lifejackets,

and the dinghy's sheer ribcage.
Heart-sounds ebb,
flicker where elephant rhythms

powder boulders. It is cold
kills them, though: your hands
catching theirs hold

white wax moulding
into stumps of snow. Some
keep their grip till the boat comes:

you pull out a smiling woman
and cradle a thing; the moth
quivering in her lips

left them for worms. Unmourned—
the howl is hollow, the salt
wells coolly

over the sockets: yawning
gravedigger, nodding mongoloid
sucking a lolly.

The sun overlooks it all
drugged in this calm.
The sea lulls and gives back

a dull glass eye;
it sees a sleepy
cow graze on the beach—

tongue lapping tidepools,
and dewlaps stroking the purslane.
It misses the coils

and patient hiss, the venomed
invitation that never
takes no for an answer.

She offers the beach a breast.
As it suckles, she beats it
to what shape she pleases.

Now she sleeks
the wrinkled neck
back to baby skin.

What would it be without her?
Blown dust, a desert.
Beached here thirty years

I know its need. Inland
all eyes peck me hollow. Only
here am I whole.


Locals call me devoted,
taking for worship
the sand's thirst.

John Reibetanz's works copyright © to the author.

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