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.


On the last day of summer, I walk the streets,
the dying breeze in the air carrying salt
from the bay, a stench like money from the mill.
These dark streets cool in the moonlight,
the heat of day fading like a dying star,
tossed aside and forgotten.

                                          Out past 12th street,
I stop at a small bridge over the canal.
Beneath me, the water runs thick and brown,
the moon reflecting back like a god’s eye,
half closed as if asleep.  I see my own face
staring back, a boy, 14 years old, with a pudgy
face, round cheeks, eyes like the hollows
of pecan shells, split.  My image wavers
in the water, thick as honey. 

Who was I then but a child?  Was the night mine?
I owned every step I took, tasted the night
air with my tongue and felt astounded
by the freshness, like a fat yellow honeydew.
Above me, the moon rode in the purple
sky as the summer drained from the little town
by the bay.  I’d spent another year, walking
beneath the living sky, waiting for the days
to pass, and hoping that I could one day
ride the breeze like the salt and become
someone else’s memory in another place.

Although he grew up on the Panhandle of Florida, Jeff Newberry now writes and works in Tifton, Georgia, where he is an instructor of writing and literature at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.  His poems have appeared in Kimera, California Quarterly, The Lucid Stone, Permafrost, and most recently The GW Review.  Newberry is seeking a publisher for his chapbook, Impossible Season.