Poetry: If it had been hypothermia your body would have floated

Photograph of a beach and the sea with long grass in the foreground

with every hug and handshake
and every i’m sorry for your loss
i wait to fall apart
to fall asleep
to dream of your drowning

to wake up sharp and shivering
like the shards of bitter cold
that impaled the final seconds
before your eyes fell closed

i want to believe that you closed your eyes

every time i close mine here
and breathe this chill air
i wait to feel the pressure in my chest

i will always half expect
to encounter you washed ashore somewhere
bloated and blue and no longer lost

but still there are no tears
no swell
no rush
no water
and no more salt for these wounds

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Some background to this poem

My father worked on boats for a large portion of his life and most of mine. The sea was an important part of my early years and the sound of boat engines, the smell of fuel and salt, and the freedom of being afloat on open water are the foundations upon which the best parts of me are built. The darker side of this experience is that my childhood memories were punctuated by stories of people lost at sea, images of funerals I never attended and ghosts of strangers wandering on beaches. Sometimes these took the form of cautionary tales, sometimes just one side of a phone call overheard late at night, but always there was a strong sense of respect for a force that could never truly be harnessed or tamed and therefore must be respected.

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