For Tom Temple
I lay half awake, fishing for sleep.
An amber street light blinks
outside my Galway bedroom,
the pulsing reminds me of the channel marker
in autumn darkness announcing Seldovia Bay.
Expecting any one,
it bobs alert in the star-lit swells,
welcoming tired boats.
We unload wild silver salmon at the freezer plant.
We are slimy this frosty morning.
The timber footpath, autumn slippery,
leads us to hot showers and
a chat without the Sarah M.’s engine roaring.
Everything’s motionless except knees tricked by solid ground.
We know we should point her bow across the bay to Homer.
But we can’t—Neptune tugs,
just one more run, one more big hearted load
before snow dusts the mountains,
before life becomes ordinary.
Years later you were fishing for herring alone
in Alaska’s Bristol Bay west of nowhere.
Your ankles swelled big as flower pots.
Miraculously you got yourself to Anchorage.
Heart failure…nonsensical news …you not yet thirty.
Slushy snow blossoms into lilacs while we wait,
each beat weaker.
I think about you daily. Decades later
while the amber streetlight bobs so far away,
I marvel that the doctors gave you a new heart more full of love than your old.