On Newcomb Hollow Beach
-- for Caleb, Kai, and Max Potter
On an April's first day
he woke with a plan:
He'd take his gun, he'd take his life.
First, though, he went about town:
there were errands to run,
a bill at the market to pay,
a few odd jobs
that shouldn't be left undone.
Eventually, the road ...
to the ocean's edge.
He bore a pain born of a tragedy ...
bore his own hurt, bore the hurt of others.
These hurts and these pains would cease
Those who loved him
and we who did not know him
would have wished to shout:
"Stop! Please don't! ... No! Don't"
But the shot rang out.
He was gone ... beyond reach ....
It's difficult to imagine
wanting to die, certainly not
while needing to die can make some sense ...
wanting only for life to become better,
wanting for a son to heal,
for his friends' tears to end.
Now, though, month after month had gone by;
nothing seemed to be getting better.
He must have come to believe
it would not get better ...
so, yes, a gun ...
a definitive breach.
Shocks, griefs, sobbings ...
a million tears were shed
by family, lovers, friends, and strangers.
The tide came in twice a day
washing those tears away,
leaving behind no explanations,
They stood his surfboard upright
its red-orangeness brilliant
against the blue background of sea,
against the blue background of sky.
The scene, even amidst pity, was beautiful.
Offerings and homages: pebbles, feathers,
flowers, notes ... mementos set about;
his hammer was attached to his surfboard;
a photograph of him was put there too.
Sad, futile gestures. Announcements:
we came, we grieved,
we thought of you.
His ashes were spread on the sand
Last night, a perfectly autumn night,
I walked to the scene.
The moon, taciturn, full, glanced askance;
it was not hers to wonder why --
she had work to do, tugging and heaving
an ocean entire, and she must move on --
to Lake Superior, I supposed,
then to Big Sur, to China, past Mumbai.
I shed a few tears for him and for
other sadnesses that came to mind
The makeshift memorial, the mementos ...
all such is long gone --
carried away by a tide
or removed by the Rangers.
Gazing at plankton in the water --
those phosphorescent essences --
I suddenly imagined them as ashes;
I then thought of each ash as a surfer,
and it occurred to me, of course,
that one of them might be he --
riding waves great and small
surfing happily through it all,
surfing through eternity,
hanging ten ... doing all the things
that surfers love to do.
It made a pretty picture in my mind ...
a brief idea of paradise --
an idea which I'd, so to speak,
tried on for size.
Then, the time to go having come,
I turned and headed for home.
Walking along Gross Hill Road
the fancy fantasy I'd devised
struck me as, at best, silly.
it struck me anew ...
it wasn't silly ... wasn't silly at all;
it was just a nice soft cushion
against a tough reality.