I Went Down To The Water's Edge

I went down to the water’s edge to watch the tide and think a while.

I saw the water rise, then fall and pound the sand and rocks beneath.

The brutal sea’s continual slap, slap, slap of irritating perpetuity,

sent to smart and sting the sandy pebbles’ calm and unresponsive cheek.

I sat there for an hour or so, a speck of time so tiny as to be no more a grain of sand

to this eternal might, the monstrous sea’s epochal narrative.

I knew, inevitable fate, as battered partner knows this bruise, again, will fade,

that by nightfall all trace of day will have been duly washed away,

scrubbed clean, erased, then gone.

And as I sat, full pondering, I thought about the passing;

of things, of tests, of time, of terms, of lessons taught and teachers fraught

and summer’s final lesson bells, that ring unheard in soundless corridors.

I thought about that term-end day when children tied and bound by uniformity,

are finally let loose from hug-tight safety nets, of rules and schools

to float and scatter on the wind like ripe balloons so full of air to burst out,

free to float and find their own unfettered flights.

For summer.

And as they fly, each off to bump and bop along until the time

that 6 week helium supply runs out and brings them softly back to earth again,

I see, in my mind’s eye this time, the tired figures huddled down, collecting strings

and picking up the wrappings of the balloon bags the children, careless, left behind.

They straighten up, those so-tired souls, backs cricking as they pack away

balloon pumps they will use again, a smile and nod upon their care-worn faces

as they watch that air flotilla dissipate.

In time they too depart, those pedagogues, back to their homes to rest and heal

exhausted, spent and fractured, some, as they reflect not on the peace,

but on the silence, lack of noise.

They contemplate the battles fought, the lifeboat drills and stormy seas,

a year of choppy, foaming squalls, traversed by steady seamanship,

now docked and safe, at least for now.

And here, now, comes the last to leave, the Captain, stood upon the deck,

looks up and pauses, breathes it in, the tangy, salty taste of life.

The voyage this time took its toll, this next one may well be the last.

The Captain feels it, deep inside, the time old ache that leaks and drips

the heartsore, bitter, rasping choke that tolls and tells that time is up.

The Captain’s chest is empty now, all treasure, bounty, booty spent.

Just to keep afloat this time took everything there was to give.

But still the ship must be repaired, and patched and tarred, made tight and good,

but who’s to pay the shipwright now, when credit’s out, wrung tight and dry?

The Captain cannot think of this, too shattered now from mooring up,

so homeward bound we see the tired footsteps lead, slow, ponderous.

And in that wake the looming figure of the ship, remains behind,

a school-shaped hulk, brooding in the dampening dusk.

The hands will come and do their best to fix and nail and paint and weld,

they always do, they always will,

but lessened now in tools and team, they cannot promise watertight.

But sail again she must, and so they hammer on and, fingers crossed,

she’ll hold until the winds can change and bring with them some hope of fortune,

changing slowly on the breeze.

And there I wake from reverie and jump up bleary,

as I see the water creep so coyly up, teasing, try to catch my toes.

I grab my phone, reality, and make my way back to the street, to town, to home,

to where the siren call of tides can’t summon me.

And as I shut my front door tight and greet my dogs like long lost loves,

I spot a speck just out of shot, a tiny something in the sky.

I turn and squint and there it is, far off, but dauntless, riding by,

a small balloon, alone but bold, cloud high, ecstatic soaring high.

“Fly well my friend, seek out the sky”, I call to it and wave goodbye.

“Come back,” I whisper, to the night, “when you are tired, by and by.”


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