Man Painting a Fishing Shack on the Pier

There’s the possibility, of course, you’ll plummet off the scaffold,
yet as always, as I walk here every morning, thinking of something else
how lobsters navigate the mystifying forests of the seas,
or how the water reflects the final strands of sunlight,
                        reflects all that’s left
I see the stubborn progress of your brush.
But I beg for you to keep in mind:
if you slip and plummet, swallowed by the ocean’s
constant folding and unfolding,
I cannot hurl myself out there to rescue you
in swells like that. Surely you can understand?
I can’t be the fisherman to hook, and pull you up,
drowned, covered in seaweed
It can’t be me searching in all directions for help,
alone, hearing the shush of high tide decompose
the pier’s wooden support beams little by little,  
the way, perhaps, downpours decomposed the swing set
in your backyard, while your mother’s voice called you in.

And if you do die, don’t make me try to confess
what every moment of your life
all the heartbeats, all the grinding forward, inch by inch,
of your body through every second
signifies, when I’m only twenty-four, so overwhelmed,
like a sea lion plucking floating bits of food,
then suffocating with surprise
when the torpedo frame of a great white launches from below.
Do I really need to tell you why it all matters?
I mean, you’d be dead,
and a crowd would crane to see your corpse
rolling in the waves without breath,
which somehow escaped from you in all your carelessness…
Clearly, it would be cruelYou wouldn’t be ready.
But would you recognize it works that way for everyone?
My being there would be cruel, too,
because of my unpreparedness, my shock,
my lack of anything to say except:
you drowned, you drowned,
I didn’t help, I didn’t help.

Domenic Scopa is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His first book, Walk-in Closet (Yellow Chair Press), is forthcoming in 2017.