–after Alan Shapiro
How did it begin?
We were in a rowboat. My brother and I.
The moon full and close. Touchable.
We were drifting. It was quiet, eerily quiet.
That’s when the geese came?
Bruce heard the calls first. He bolted up
and the boat bobbled. I feared we’d tip over.
He sat down, but still I could feel a tremor.
Is that when you noticed the boat was leaking?
Not then. We were busy eyeing the dark line of geese
bisecting the moon. Such melodic cacophony.
Mesmerizing. We’d never known anything like them.
Were you afraid?
Not of the geese. I worried he’d stand again,
throw us both overboard. And I was angry too.
Angry at your brother?
No, at our parents. Maybe it seems wrong
to blame them. But they’d set us adrift
without life jackets. We had nothing
to save ourselves.
Tell me about the leak.
I felt icy water, looked down
to see it swirling around my calves.
There was no bucket for bailing.
You had oars. Couldn’t you…
There was already too much water,
too much weight in the boat.
And then the geese returned.
The same flock of geese?
Maybe just more geese. Louder this time.
Insistent. I’d had enough of them, but
I could see something different in my brother,
he leaned back, relaxed his shoulders.
Was he usually tense?
Always. He resembled a turtle, head bowed,
carrying a weight. When the geese returned,
I can only say he pulled free of his shell.
Your boat was sinking.
I could see the shoreline, knew it would be
a hard swim, but thought I could make it.
You abandoned your brother?
Look, what choice did I have? I could see it
in his face. He’d already left me. Don’t you see?
It was the geese.
You saved yourself.
Yes. The water was forgiving and held me afloat.
I begged him to help himself, to follow me. But
those geese, they had this hold. They had him and
wouldn’t give him back. I swam. I saved myself.
Gail Braune Comorat is a founding member of Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, and author of Phases of the Moon, and a co-author of “Walking the Sunken Boards.” Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, Grist, Mudfish, Philadelphia Stories, and The Widows’ Handbook. She lives in Lewes, Delaware where she teaches poetry and grief writing classes.