The Navy Captain's house was not burning,
but the sprinklers were firing every second on top of
this house he retired to thirty years ago
with his wife, who takes many medications now,
and his infant daughter, now a mother.
Fifty years before, cruising with supplies from Guam,
the Navy Captain heard his crew talking
about the Japanese-made torpedoes that run swift and straight
ten or twenty feet deep, anytime, piercing through the hull
and exploding mostly inside the ship
among the engines and the men.
He never thought he'd be safe at his daughter's house,
from the thoughts of the hundreds of homes already burned,
the news stations broadcasting no foreseeable containment,
and the fact that the fire had spread fingers
across Moraga Drive, the street just houses
from the Navy Captain's house.
Standing on the deck at night, looking over the side,
multiple straight lines glow the water to light,
tracking amidships, making him think it is over.
The Navy Captain grips the rail and bends his knees
to see the South Pacific Dolphin turn to ride the bow
of his destroyer.
He drank his bourbon, now a premature evacuee,
saying "If it goes, it goes... but Katherine will never recover from it."
We'll try to sleep tonight, call a neighbor in the morning,
the one with teenagers sitting on their roof watching the fire
surrounding the Navy Captain's house.
All through each long day
our nightgowns hug each other
on the bedroom hook.
Do you remember the moist air?
In the black night we couldn’t see the plants
on the ground, near the edge,
until our eyes adjusted.
Then you would look for the stars and
later I’d point out the white glow from the surf
when a wave broke.
The doctors tell me the main tumor
in my chest is the size of a softball.
She uses a double strand of yarn
and thin knitting needles so the arms and walls
to cover my chest and back will be thick.
There are more in my bronchial system,
my neck, below my diaphragm, and maybe
in my spleen. The sweater will warm me
even in the wind. She had to do Catholic
Penance, a mother’s labor, she repeats
non-stop clicks with yarn, mostly acrylic,
so it can’t be eaten and
will never decay. She says it is her
fault. She should have stopped me from
sneaking onto that stupid golf course at night, swimming
with mosquitoes, diving the black lake for lost balls
through industrial fertilizer and green dyes, as if
she knows what caused my lymph node cancer
when no one else does. She tries to cure me, feels
my forehead, clicks the needles together again
and again until her fingers hurt and wrists ache
and she can hardly stand up from sitting so long.
So I tell her that leaves on trees blow left
then right, some rattle and flip,
some move hardly at all, yet some are first to fall
to the ground. I tell her the sweater
is coming along great as she watches me lose
weight lying in bed. The needles click as she approaches
another threshold of pain that relieves her.
Real Nature, in both its hard back photo book and its soft cover forms, will be available on Amazon in March.
The Literary Nest published “The Navy Captain’s House” in their Winter 2017/2018 issue, themed as their “Fear” edition.
“Everyday” was first published in Smeuse Poetry, a print anthology, in 2017.
“Kissing on the Cliff” was first published by Her Heart Poetry in July of 2017.
The Ocean State Review, Charles Kell editor, was the first to publish “The Sweater” in their 2016 edition. It was published again by Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing, which is primarily a print journal. A third appearance was in Wising Up Press/Universal Table for their Longer Than Expected web anthology.