Never answer the boy
whose clock hands are question marks,
who asks, “have I been here before?”
Do not tell him these beach prints are his,
that they lead back to him,
where he became, where he’ll become
an old man sailing off with nothing.
Do not tell how heaven refuses him again,
how his fingernails scream down another
tombstone, leaving no mark.
No, never name the young one.
He will have too many to remember.
Do not say that the great waves
of time will wash him from shore to shore.
Do not let him know how his birthdays
count up then down, remember then forget,
as he stings from the bullet spray of an ocean
too deep for him or tosses in a sky
never higher than the crow’s nest.
No, never let him see how the clock
strikes hard and repeats itself.
Instead, give him false hope.
Tell him how sails resemble angel wings,
but show him the danger of sailing
against the wind. Teach him that peace
is an island where only his memory can stay.
If he is like most, he’ll turn the helm
the easy way toward a dream-lit shore
forgotten but familiar, stay afloat
through another life, numb and dumb
like a drunk on storming ocean,
laughing and swearing off the danger
until the next last day of his life.