Night Crossing

Ron Slate

Back and forth is a way to move
when the visible is spacious.

But what’s the state of the last boat,
lightly loaded and unprofitable?

Tied up at the mainland dock,
the ferry shudders in its berth,

its captain consults a tide chart
and grunts. A new, possessive moon.

Late departure, a rigid beam of light
probes the sea lane for what violates or drifts.

The other shore, not far off, can leap
and hurt the hand pointing at it.

In the dark alongside—wings seen, instantly gone,
a half-thought interrupted by a heave.

Then the ferry turns hard a-port to the channel,
the parting waters make the sound of a god

murmuring for both the first and last time.
At mid-crossing, something is lacking twice over—

in this location, in the mechanism or vision of the crossing?
Two ports, both accommodating, but unmoved

by what goes on between. How many departures
does a person need, how many starts can be tolerated?

A necessary collision at the pilings
tells everyone it’s over.
 

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From the Peninsula

The old trees shake out medals at midday
to the ship paused for a meteor’s blunting
glimpse in the windy yellow of the water,

partway to inventing another world.
Through the window’s tiger slats,
the bakery pumps smoke, years between

her irretrievable shawl, which crimsons
what I see, watching further and further,
until canisters shatter into nitrate stars,

late at night, saluting an unforgiving song.
I tilt down on her iron bed and cluster
haunted basil, the scent rifts morning open

to argon of cobwebs, the dim cargo, the bent
hills, the black gold, her hands, clasped
shut her children, long gone, under the sea.