by Jeffrey Owen Pearson
As the plane skirts the coast heading south
to Ft. Lauderdale, I fool myself into seeing a marlin
leap from the ocean and, for a moment,
look me in the eye as if something holy.
Because all things are holy.
From this height I see the blurring of sea and land.
Of a place where people struggle for footholds.
I know who loses this game.
Because we all always lose in the end.
When my feet hit the tarmac I already feel
foreign. Like a soldier who retreats from death
or will be swallowed.
I have come to claim the dead. Whose atoms
will soon mingle into the fire of a last sunset.
How odd the familiarity of gray streets
moaning in the rising mist after a rain shower.
The tangle of unusual trees and boulevard names.
The unfriendly neighborhood facades
with no one I know. Easy in, easy out,
they say. Except the way grief sticks everywhere.
Like gum stuck on the pavement, cooking
in the sun. Sweet but spit out for the only reason
I know. I’ve become too accustomed to its taste.
From Jeffrey Owen Pearson: “I began writing a tribute to Jay Zimmerman, who grew up in Florida, but the poem kept turning to my son, who died there. 'Heading South' is heavy with both.”