A Conversation on the Subject of Mortality with My Uncle in a Small Boat Off Cape Cod, 1994

Brad Bostian

Dinner at six and then we die,
He says, sitting on a battery
Tilling a small electric motor
Across a finger of the sea.

Oh but let's not get there yet,
I say, bouncing from wave to wave
Sustaining these sea-finger bouncing blows
In the wake of the Cape Cod tourist boats.

It happens whether we like it or not,
He says, and with these blood clots
I could go at any time. He winks
But it is only the spray I know,
Yet with every eye that closes
Another universe dissolves.

And if it has to be death, I think
My little dog may be a thousand miles off
But the wheel she rides on
Is so much faster than mine
And so like a paddle wheel it is
And when it dumps her, it will dump her
Into the drink along with all the others

While my life goes on like a green lazy stream
With no wheel but the current gently turning,
No ripples but the trees reflecting into thirds,
No prayer but the forest bowing overhead
Into the blue mosaic.

I could go before you, I say,
Pondering again my fretful dog
Whose short legs might be sturdy
But they often move so fast.

I relax more nowadays, he says,
And when I work, I work energetically,
Get more done with less.

Then stop the boat and let us drift
For heaven's sake! I say.

But dinner, he reminds with grill-smoke
High on the rock hill, the young mother
Waving from the bank, the toddler
Orbiting her legs, my own head
Spinning, Let's go, he says,
Aren't you hungry? And yes,
I realize as the sea has calmed,
And we could stay this way for hours,
And I would stay this way for hours,
That most unfortunate thing I am.


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