When we sang
Michael row your boat ashore,
I saw him forever rowing,
pointed at a shore that would never near,
like that time I tried to swim back to the beach in California,
and no one could hear me crying
over the ocean that pull, pull, pulled me away.
He never came ashore, that Michael,
and while our singing called upon him to pull,
and the other children pantomimed row, row, rowing,
he and I would not,
because together we knew this:
that boat was never going to come ashore.
We had already pulled in oars to wait for the night
when black water would lap the boat
in its rhythm with the moon
and the people would stop call, call, calling,
as though anything could be done.
There was nothing to be done.
Michael and I cradled ourselves in the boat bottom,
while the others sang on,
and waited for the rock, rock, rocking
to marry the beat, beat, beating of our hearts,
those sliver-thin junctures
where we hoped a God lay in wait
for those who would wait
for their boats to be guided home.