by Jeff Newberry

The empty morning comes
to the vacuum of darkness,
the hollowed sky low over Apalachicola Bay.
Morning coffee cools in my cup.
Your funeral brought only the ritual
of closure, a process as natural
as a glowing ring circling the moon,
prophesying rain. No sound from the sea
this morning, the gray water a pane of glass—
only a fisherman on the slate smoothness,
cast net ballooned above his
head like a cloud of black smoke.
You and I, father, walked in the bay,
feet sliding on the sand, bumping stingrays
as your cast net soared, its black unfurling
casting a shadow of us in a black circle.
But I trusted you like Peter to the Jesus,
stepping surely on the waves beneath.
Years from now, I will awake
in another place, taste the day,
and wish for visions and dreams of you.
Surely, I’ll see the fisherman instead,
your face lost in a colorless past
that I arrange and choose, making
of you the person I wanted you to be.
As now, I will interpret the moment
as significant because of what it lacks.
I could chisel this moment in my mind,
shape significance in the morning mist.
I could come to your grave once a year
and kneel, listening for a spectral voice
to whisper in my ear the secrets
of life and death, the language of the sea.
The day you left, I walked by the bay
and found a bloated dead alligator,
tailless and rotting green in the sand,
milky eyes reflecting only clouds,
the gray that spread out over the whole sky.

A native of the Florida Gulf Coast, JEFF NEWBERRY is the author of Brackish (Aldrich Press, 2012) and A Visible Sign (Finishing Line 2008). He is the co-editor (with Brent House) of The Gulf Stream: Poems of the Gulf Coast (Snake Nation Press, forthcoming). Newberry’s writing has appeared in a variety of print and online journals, including Anti-, The Florida Review, The Cortland Review, Chattahoochee Review, New South, Memorious, Hobble Creek Review, Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art, Sweet: A Literary Confection and Waccamaw: A Journal of Contemporary Literature, as well as in the online anthology Best of the Net 2008.