(for James Tate)
Those cold bones of marrowed wood beneath
a ragged lake gone still for once, Lake Michigan.
How you’d hidden them beneath a coat of silt
until today. Unbuttoning bares your clavicle
of hull and keel, your ribs of broken masts.
Fifteen hundred held in that lake of you, so many
that in two places one shipwreck rests unlikely
on another as if you’d balanced them yourself.
As if every drowned boat deserved another.
Never two without three and in this summer
of mentors passing I wait to hear who closes
out the set. Who doesn’t want to die in her sleep
and by this we mean there was no sign
of struggle, no chance a fight might delay
the ship, nearly swamped, from tipping down.
Few sailors learn to swim, know a lakebed’s
want or how in full sail a ship cannot tack back.
Knowing even the strongest, in the end, go under.