sleetHeavy sleet had formed
a frozen wrap around the
telephone poles, piled in the
gutters, jammed up his wipers--
so he crawled into the parkade
half blind. Under ceiling space-
heaters, water rivered off his car
as he unclipped his toddler from
her carseat. Beneath his undershirt,
his dress shirt, his tie, sport coat,
and overcoat, he bundled his
daughter up three flights of stairs.
Sweat pouring into his collar, he
pushed open the front door and
hot air slapped him in the face.
He saw the fridge door cracked
open as he downed his little girl in
the living room toy quarry. And his
wife: white tank top, brown arms,
leaning over the sink, sinking
her teeth into the cold, sour
flesh of a yellow mango.
sea planeWe enter the cabin
doubled over, sit with
our knees pressed up
and in. After take off
it’s too loud to talk
so we stare
straight ahead at the
pilot’s scruffy neck.
Our vinyl seat coverings,
our orange ear plugs,
our only world. And
on the final approach
we dip a wing
over a wooden dock
where an early morning
swimmer is perched,
skin prickled to dive
into the cold saltwater.
son, bedsideYour son is by the door,
framed in the
hallway’s neon light--
you once cursed
his two-year old heft
when on the way to the park
or to the store
he asked to be carried. He
liked to be up in your arms
where he could see
and tell you the names
of all the things
that he knew.
is by your bedside now
talking with the nurses.
And you can hear
the deep and
of his voice.
Indian OceanEasing back from the surf, I stood in the shallows.
The seaweed tickled my ankles, and my black cotton
shorts clung to my legs, bunched around my groin.
Ahead, a lone fishing charter trolled the horizon.
Behind, beachside vendors hawked toy Zulu masks on
wooden stakes, the sun squinting through their eye slits.
That morning we rode to the coast in the open back
of the NGO’s pickup. Down from the hills, bumpy
roads ran into smooth highways. We passed Durban’s
steep valleys of shacks and the brightly painted walls
topped by barbed wire hoops, stopped at a gas station
to buy water and beer. We found our way to the edge of
the Indian Ocean—with only seven days left before I headed
home, with only ten months left until school was done.
Charcoal-grill smoke blew sideways over beer bottles
nestled in the sand. I pulled off my shoes without untying
the laces, peeled off my socks, my shirt. There were
other boys there—in our group, on the beach—my age,
and younger. In the sun, tones of skin smooth and so
new, and together we swarmed forward into the waves.
Copyright © 2016 Jonathan Cooper
Jonathan Cooper's poems and essays have appeared in various publications including The New Plains Review, Houseboat, Cirque Journal, The Statesman Journal, and Poetry Pacific. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.