Sea Legs

I have elderly legs.
Ashamed of them I never wear shorts.
Don’t own a pair anymore.
I look at my varicose calves like things you stop to examine
in the woods, dead one day maybe
or wounded too badly to run.
Not objects my own. Not my body.
I accept them as a harbinger, a warning that my interior is failing,
every artery and vein blowing their valves,
my heart pushing harder to move blood to my head
so I can live this worry of it stopping.
I’ve been hard on my knees and ankles:
carrying stones, dragging the limbs of trees I’ve cut.
They died this way too, leaves thinning, giving up branches
dry and gray, stabbing out into sky,
no sap rising to the crown in spring.

Some people die young,
unexpected, falling onto floors and grass,
the audience surprised, saddened, fascinated,
unable to see themselves in our casualties.

But I do.
I see me and I see you.

It’s all uncertainty, the charts blank
and we live on the decks of shipwrecks
urging them on, knifing the rigging, strapped to the masts,
amazed by how far we get without sails.
Everyday I make my last stand, balancing right and left
to counter the pitch and sway, finding my sea legs,
watching the bow go under
and rise.

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