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This Delicate Balance

My Own Private Sea Wall

I didn’t cry after my father died.

Same thing as I sat with my mother,

so small in that king-sized bed, hands

clasped in the silence her children knew

so well. I’m not sure what that says about me

since I cry at sappy movies and I wept when

each of our dogs died, especially Plumpy,

who wasn’t even my favorite, though I should

say here that each time I’ve left a theater teary-

eyed or walked away after burying a sweet dog

on the rise in the woods, my tears soon dried

and I went about the daily sun and moon of being

a dad, all of it seeming to demand a sea wall

composure against an ocean of hurt, no boyish

bawling allowed except, however absurd

this may sound, at supposedly joyful ceremonies

like my kids’ graduations where without warning

torrents of inarticulate sorrow have seven times

splashed up against this rocky embodied soul,

wave after choking wave, my breathless gasps

reminding me if the dike ever breaks, I’d be swept

away, tumbling head over heels into a roiling

whirlpool of my worst fears come true, a world

of inconsolable wailing without amen.

—SL, Port Royal, SC, March 2023

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