by Jacob Scheier
“I’m sorry/I could not row the boat/ashore.”
— Half-remembered lines from a poem published in a journal approximately 15
years ago, which I’ve been unable to locate.
At the risk of stating
the obvious, the island,
that place we met
and fell in—
is underwater. In the rom-com,
we got married alongside the hedge maze
on Hanlan’s Point. We imagined
more than I could handle.
Your dreams, love, are very heavy
or maybe they are light
as a baby. It depends
on how real a thing is love or the future—
obviously, at the risk of—
they are adjacent
to some real, though it’s hard because
neither can be held like a present.
On Christmas, I held your gift
and shook it, a little, trying
to guess what might be inside.
But inside all of that was fear
—not of nothing—
but of things that feel
like they could turn
to nothing. “I’m sorry/
I could not row the boat/ashore.”
These half-remembered lines I remembered once
but forgot long before we met,
in that time which resembles the present
—now is like then—
except for memory
we are strangers
again. We did not row,
but were ferried there,
to what is now a shoreless island,
a place beginning in the middle
or ending there. I’m sorry
I could not row the boat
ashore. These stolen and butchered
lines better than the emails I begin
and can’t send, ever since I said
I’m sorry/I can’t do this/
anymore. I don’t know
exactly what I meant by this,
how much of this was us
and how much, the idea
of where I thought
we were headed. I thought
of arrivals. I’m sorry/
I don’t know who is the boat
and who, the shore.
But the flood isn’t about us.
Climate change as metaphor is
problematic. But in my defense,
that poem or this one, is, I think,
about carelessness. In related news,
yesterday, and mostly
by coincidence, I found myself
at the ferry docks accompanied
by an absurd idea: if I looked far enough
from the mainland, I could see
the flooding. I could see
what was no longer there.
Of course, there is nothing
to report, other than a sign,
which, if I am remembering properly,
read: “only residents and special personnel—”
of which we are neither—
“are permitted to cross.” I’m sorry/
it is literally impossible/
to reach the shore/now,
though maybe that was always the case.
It’s just something I can say now without
uncertainty. But you knew all that.
You read the news.
— from Juniper Volume 1, Issue 2