The Watercourse  

Cynthia Zarin

Michael's Boat

When at night you woke
I sang to you, light in my arms
and your cheek wet, and the shore
we rowed toward was sleep.

Two a.m., four a.m.,
the sky brightening, our passage
abandoned as the last star
to steer by faded. Milk

and honey, trumpet vine,
the hours swelling in the thick
June heat as I crossed the wide
floorboards, singing

the only song that
settled you, as if you knew
even then the journey we were on,
that we were leaving, or

that I was, and you
would be forever heading into
open water, past gray shallows
where the wrecked ship

molts, splintering
at the high-water line, turning
from boat to felled kite:
a beast whose rigging

should have let it
fly, but which withered instead
like the willow judged by
Michael, "Let the Lord

rebuke you." Shadow.
Inland. Four, five, six summers
pass. Too heavy now to carry
when you stir, you rise

instead, and walk,
somnambulist, around the room.
I sit up late. Asleep, you
seem to know your way.

Porpoise who swims
in the watercourse we made, I stand
on grief's upper deck and hear
you ask, in the silence

of the song's long
shade, "Whose boat is it anyway?"
"It is yours," I think, but
do not answer.

A Thank You Note To James Wagman

The magnum of Veuve Clicquot
bought to toast the Big New Year
was left undrunk and put away

until your August birthday,
when in the life we weren't sure
would come (as if time might

stop just for us) you pottered
up and down the half-lit dune,
passing it among the crowd

while sticky babies tottered
underfoot, and the ruined sky
recorded the sun's rapid

plunge from view in pumpkin hues
the exact shade of the champagne
label. Then turned flamingo pink

as stardust, the bubbles flew.
Now summer shed, the bottle
sits amid crumpled flotsam

on my desk. Aggrieved, it
wears a lampshade on its head,
a reveler who'd hoped the revel

wouldn't end, but settles for
(though doesn't get) a glimpse
of revelation in its stead.

Nevertheless, it light things up,
including this (raised to you)
chipped coffee cup.

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    Excerpted from The Watercourse by Cynthia Zarin. Copyright © 2002 by Cynthia Zarin. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.