Friday, September 23, 2022

The Pilot Laugh

This was a long time ago,
If only since it’s over.
Once every event’s over

In your connected story,
And it’s only looking back,
No waiting for the next thing,

No remaining shoes to drop,
Not a penny in the slot,
Then it’s a long time ago,

Count time however you want.
This was, as we were saying,
A long time ago now, done.

The day had opened brightly
With threats of thunderstorms.
You’d been sober for years, but

Sometimes, late summer mornings,
You woke to the memory
Of good gin from the freezer,

The chill and the bite, easing
A little, the way morphine
Eased you often as a boy

Prone to stays in hospitals
Following your surgeries
For multiple broken bones.

A thunderstorm meant the threat
That you couldn’t go swimming
Safely in the deep, green lake.

Jokes are always serious.
The lighthearted don’t tell them.
You rarely ever told them,

And to swim across the lake
Under looming thunderheads
Would be to attempt a joke.

In a bright, lighthearted mood,
You drove out of town instead.
Wind blew the branches up skirts.

Firefighting helicopters
Buzzed buckets into the lake
Like dragonflies drinking sips,

And you longed for a sturgeon
Giant enough to rise up
And swallow one of them whole,

Which, if it could have happened,
Would have been a tragedy,
And you were too lighthearted

For that. You pulled off, high up
At a tiny, higher lake,
As the thunderstorms gathered

And blew down birch leaves in swirls,
And of course you couldn’t swim
Here either, even darker

Joke. So you sat by the shore,
Thinking of nothing that much,
With nothing really do,

Contemplating the stories
Of swimmers you’d read before,
And how none of them concerned

Not swimming, being swimmer
Not swimming, only waiting
For the thunderstorm to start,

The author to show a hand,
The sobering story done
That you wouldn’t have written,

Couldn’t have written, but would
Some day make into a poem,
Which would also end empty.

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