Jeffrey C. Alfier
He is the hull, diesel and waterline that mark him,
ligature of fists on the wheel. He is bow wave
and sting of spindrift, inlets sprawled with waterfowl,
tidewrack, a mind drawing tangent lines no one sees.
The wheelhouse is his tabernacle in the wilderness.
He’s a bulkhead’s argument with rust, a pennant’s
argument with gales. Spend enough of your life
at sea and you can tell windward from leeward
by the taste of wind alone. At a small remove,
just back of the helm, passengers serry against
north Atlantic cold, their voices clipped
by gusts keening through antenna wires.
Sheltered waters far astern, he is the rote cadence
of the deck crew’s footfalls. He won’t worry how late
he gets home, how long he’ll stand with his back
to the seawall, a phone ringing somewhere without
his answer, the sea a rhythm locked in his heart.