Bethel

Beneath the sky all stroppy
and smeared in white
beard chopping into the wind
sturdy against the night, a figurehead
he sniffs the closing air

inside these walls I pray
this place on the shoreline
fifty feet back and one day
to be claimed not by some tempest
but by nature’s ritual attrition

the small red book flakes
its gold leaf into the cracks
on my hands, a little unsteady
the pages smell of a lifetime in boats
some days a gentle steed
on a mill pond, but other times you are
clinging to timber and grabbing thin air
riding the desperate rodeo of the sea

if He controls the sea
then bring them home safe
bring them home safe

and deliver them with bounty
a hessian sack filled up with gifts
nets with fish, a toy boat, blue
that falls through young fingers
like a vessel through a mess of waves
chucking them high and emptying the wee boat
onto another crest, bouncing and blustered
as a fly brushed, merely displaced

and deliver with stories
of a leviathan that chased and chomped paint
Michael, below deck stumbling, his head
bumped and bloodied on the low timber
maybe the storm did that, made him so
he could not stand, or maybe it was the warm whisky
the juice that makes him so brave
that he cannot remember that fearful monster

so now they are steady, gathering
the catch, stolen from the sea
looking from my porthole square I see
a small light peak, coast and fall
the interminable waters grudgingly return them
so I put back the book, unread
in the scuffed wooden drawer
pull up my hood and go to meet them

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