From the Archives

Aubade

Tom Sleigh

Lathe of the ocean. Perpetual
Motion machine of the waves. Everything still
Being turned and shaped to a shape nobody
Foresees: Ten years ago, was it, when we

Walked that shore, too earnest and sheepish
To hold hands? The wind cutting through our clothes
Cleansed and burned, the chill off the Atlantic
An ache we courted in our dumbstruck talk:

Callow, expectant, what wouldn’t love give?
Cavalcanti’s ray from Mars, Dante’s wheel that moves
The planets and the stars, how nervous
We were, awkward and shivering: “Like this,

Do you like it like this?” Up all night,
Then waking to the small of flannel and sweat,
We lay grateful, winded, goosefleshed in the chill,
Our own atmosphere rich and breathable:

We drank round the clock, embracing extremes,
Too hurried and heartsore to think of time…
Out fishing after midnight, we watched schools of squid
Slide and shimmer, tentacles tight-wrapped

Around our gig’s hooks: Yanked from the water,
They sprouted jets of ink, then pulsed and quivered
And faded to dead-white, their eyes, resigned and sober,
Opening wider and wider… Ten years more,

And will either of us remember
That ink sticky on our hands, the moon-glare
Rippling as we knelt underneath the pier
And scrubbed and scrubbed our hands in the dark water?

Tom Sleigh is the author of Station Zed, Army Cats, and Space Walk (Kingsley Tufts Award). He has published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, VQR, APR, Poetry, Threepenny, and elsewhere.
Originally published:
July 1, 1989

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