Portrait of the Sailor as an Aging Man
10 November 2020

Home on leave,
for the fourth such time this year,
and the sailor says to a friend
that he sees the city,
his life in fact,
in time-lapse.

He has arrived
to the fragrant swell
of a leonine Indian Summer,
and it is the seasons of course,
that are the most obvious darlings
of this sailor’s time-lapse lens.

His first-time back,
those months ago,
and the knobbled, gnarly limbs
that wobble before their balcony
showed not even the first sign of bloom,
and the squirrels were all skinny still
and the gutters ran
with the slurry and slush 
and gurgle of thawing snow.

And now those trees
have cycled through their costume changes.
Some are bare but many sport
proud yellow leaves
as they approach their final act,
and the streets and sidewalks
are scattered and strewn
with their fierce golden numbers,
and he can Gene Kelly-kick them
up in the air
as he saunters
down the street.

And that pile of books
that crowns his bed
has not shrunk a bit,
though their roster
has changed twice over.
And each time he returns 
the kids of his friends 
and of his dearest, nearest, are taller 
and when he visits
they no longer greet him
at the front door.

He thinks of this city
and the other cities of his youth.
How he loved and raged
and now he sails with a man
who grows plants.
One who will take a small cutting
of branch or root,
and from that wee sprig
would grow another the same.
And the sailor
thinks he would gladly
cut off a finger
and plant it in gauze or soil,
if it meant he could have another go,
and do it all again.

(A time-lapse life,
is a life trimmed of its fat.
And is it not the fat
that gives life heft,
he wonders.)

Forgive the sailor this indulgence,
on the eve of another birthday,
as he ponders the passage of another year,
gleaned in the greying muzzles
of dogs he loves.

See him there as he writes this,
how his back hunches and smarts when he straightens,
worse than it did before.
But always,
that ridiculous heart skips along, 
though it sighs like the hinges
on an old iron wood stove’s door.