Last Poem of my 45th Year by Craig Erick Chaffin
I thought of how a whale's white ribs
could choke the sky's blue neck,
massive vertebrae half-buried in sand,
and how a keel cleaves the sea
while the wind zephyrs canvas to swell
and propel the long black ship toward shore,
heaven in a blue mussel shell, smooth
as the firmament. I believe there is a place
for old men, in the arms of their loves.
Although Dante put Odysseus in the eighth circle
for deception, both Gods and men, I think,
underrate his love for Penelope.
Think of the beached skeleton again
and the absence it creates, a neck of sky
on which an ivory choker hangs,
its central jewels composed of vertebrae
that housed the temple of marrow,
a metaphor for a core if there is one,
something more necessary than the defenses
we erect to keep from crushing
each other in the heart or in the head.
A throat of clouds caught in the pincers
of a whale's ribs recurs to me,
like a mead hall with the walls blown out.
At the end of its open tunnel I see a dull sun
stuck to the smoggy apron of the horizon.
Tomorrow Helios will drive his steeds over
the brown San Bernadinos and down
the cement-gray Los Angeles River,
but my love's hair is silver and her eyes are green.
(published in Stagger)