51 died that day
she was wasn’t there, but the man she nearly married was.
I met him twice.
He called unexpectedly at the beginning
and end of a week in the south
both times I was at her place by chance.
She was flirtatious with me in his presence
tugging the waistband of my trousers
ruffling my just cut hair
saying how much better it looked
letting him think she and I ….. might just be.
Significance is seldom recognized by the present
it is when what happens afterwards
that memory recognizes the clue.
He was relaxed the second time
and no deadlines.
A quiet man not given to exaggeration or overstatement
he and I talk while she fixed drinks.
He seemed pleased I knew of his minor fame
we raise glasses to good health in the afternoon light
then he was gone
back to his new life and early death.
Later when bagging her memories
she told me about the shipwreck
that wild April storm.
I remembered it
the Kennedy assassination moment of our country.
Indelible wild fear – living roomed by the swinging camera
black godforsaken skies
white satanic waves.
She told me of how he had survived
and what he saw
the ship’s crew leaping into lifeboats
leaving passengers to the roulette mercy of sea and God.