It is the knife edge of Halloween
and you will leave tomorrow.
The chill of this coast
invades your joints like mold,
fills your lungs with moss.
Your suitcase sways on the porch swing.
Even the house seems to list,
as if it were built of driftwood
instead of deadwood.
We have a daughter in college and a mortgage.
Your body can no longer work. All night, I hold you
like dead leaves in my fists
until the moon gives up on the last breath of yesterday
held in my lungs.
You say your return is as reliable as the wood ducks
who raise their babies every year in the pond grasses
across the driveway.
You take ten minutes to get out of bed,
pause, convince your joints you can walk.
I ask for one more day, you shake your head.
I help you down to the bay.
The day is unseasonably clear, almost tropical.
You perch on a log,
unclench in the heat.
The low tide has left a plain of wet sand and derelict trees.
I begin to build something in the hope of filling myself.
First a Kon-Tiki deck of driftwood.
Then, circular walls piled higher
that suddenly tumble down in a hollow rumble.
I build again, learn the tolerance of wood for staying in place—
finish an igloo of ribs and fingers
as the horizon harvests a pumpkin-sun.
I turn and you have crawled up a tangle of branches and trunks—
chasing the light upward from a darkened shore
your arms sunning out as if you want this brittle wood
to find buds and leaves.
Soon, my dome drifts out on the evening tide,
keeps itself intact as it twists.
The sun-burned Pacific promises
to set it on fire. I feel the breaking waves
at the bay’s mouth in my legs, my ribs, my teeth
as they splinter this home
I cannot live in.
Steve lives and works in Portland, Oregon with a lovely woman who writes and edits much better than he but refuses to admit it. Together, they host a reading series, a critique group open to the public, go to as many poetry events as humanly possible and teach creative writing to seniors in assisted living.