The old sailors
down on the long tongues
of the Ballard locks are blue and gray
and sing, way-ee, way-ee
in the cold wind.
Knuckles fisted to their sides,
they tell stories by stones that glide effortlessly
two-feet above the dark bellies
of the rising channels.
Everything rendered in oil,
oil from the leaking Saab,
the swill and sludge from the bailing-out boat,
held up by stilts on land and half-filled with storms of December,
confused, the rainbows toil.
The oil in paint, in shades of leaks
I keep because they are from the Netherlands
and mend metal skies and deep bucket bottoms.
Oil in tubes I squeeze out like grief
onto large plates of glass
and smear into faces
from my past.
Everything remembered in oil,
the twill smell of cadmium red,
the rye that stayed with you
covered you inside,
and dotted your knuckles
you notice them as you eat a sandwich,
as we sip our Torrentes,
through which two dark eyes
are as dark as oil.
Oil as the stingray slices
to a surface that pools
perfectly still, a suffering incision
as quick as sailor seagulls
as cold as belly locks
Ballard breathes out.