At Redwood Creek
A glimpse of Coho is what I want,
some sign of slipping in against the odds,
their numbers dwindling each year.
Sword fern, sun-ray, not the kind of day
to contemplate loss, despite what I read
by the Buddhist monks: ready yourself:
everything, everyone. The monks would
like my brother’s latest letter—
breath, walk, soak it all in, he says,
and I want to obey. For weeks, we’ve used
a new language: fighter, positive, brave,
the words like clouds touching
then breaking apart. This crunch of root
and rock is a type of music, a release,
my brother would say, from imagining
him gone, not gone, gone.
Three miles in, the trail he recommended—
scrub jays, moss, the signs never saying
there’s more than one way to be lost.
If I’m lucky, the salmon will come,
the first gleam, the frenzy. Breath, walk,
soak it all in. He must have meant breathe,
he must have meant stay, so much
daylight left in the leaves.
We cross a four-lane bridge to reach it
and over our shoulders we look back,
the bay and its whitecaps,
the city where we were born.
Skyscraper, plate-glass, wild, my brother says
how everything’s changed.
Here: the sound of small breakers,
an Avenue of the Palms,
A second scan showed his tumor shrinking,
millimeters, the time it takes sea glass to smooth.
My brother’s birthday—
I make the first toast,
names of boats bobbing nearby.
Serenity, Onward, Even Keeled
as though we could set course toward a different life.
There is sky in his voice when he says every good day.
I don’t count them,
I don’t listen for when he’ll laugh next.
Here: iced tea, sweet potato fries, and farther out
another sail opening.
A woman’s pried from the driver’s seat,
southbound on a nearby bridge,
a surge of siren air. Moments before,
she might have seen a shiver of sails
or a gull’s metallic wing, the ferry’s
rolling wake, but she’s not the one
I dwell on. It’s him, the driver
who drifted to dream and veered,
the one the news won’t name.
He sees her when his eyes close,
her past-tense legs, fingers bent
to the knob of her motorized chair.
It’s him I think of when my buckle
clicks, belt sashed across my breast
and I shift, smooth as moon,
into the homebound lane. I’m sure
he’d snatch those seconds back,
the coastline view, the bird-stained rock,
his hands like talons braced to the wheel.
We’re always blinking towards our fate,
the window down, our day-tangled hair.
We’re him when we steer, our bodies
bearing that one wrong moment.
His sentence now: the one spared.
Sharon Pretti lives in San Francisco, California. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Spillway, Calyx, JAMA, Jet Fuel Review and the Schuylkill Valley Journal. She is also an award-winning haiku poet and a frequent contributor to haiku journals including Modern Haiku and Frogpond. She works as a medical social worker at a large county hospital where she also leads poetry groups for seniors and disabled adults.