The rails' sound hurt, rasping metal wheels on tracks
against my spine it seemed, the train thundering northbound
through the dark. Sleeping on the shuddering floor,
I dreamed again of the night with all those travelers in Rome,
Chianti cherry-colored drunk, confessing (loudly)
to a stranger in a cheap hotel.
Then the light came, Orkney, bright in the cloud's glare,
the treeless whale's-head bluffs against the sea, with the wind
roaring, whistling . . .
They told me later I had died, stopped breathing.
You'd think that I'd remember, that whatever's next
would startle even out of anesthesia. But dying
can be quick, I guess, as just before they start to cut
the drug steals voices and the lights before the needle's out.
"The Reef" first appeared in Shankpainter 38