Saturday, 24 November 2007

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

by Brian Ownbey

The fog bullies the coast again
and I remember nights you walked home
with a loaf of bread, a fifth of bay rum
and just enough pills to keep you
from cutting the stitches along your wrist.
You told me there was a comfort you felt
when the fog cloaked your body
and held you hidden within the ghost light...
hidden from the locals who thought of you
only as the girl who tried to drown herself
just off the cape the day after police
found your father dead from an aneurism
and frozen to the lighthouse floor.

The night we met at the Barbary Coast Lounge
you coaxed me to the lighthouse
and we pried off the lock with a crowbar.
In the control room where your father
died in the middle of a thought
we finished a bottle of red wine
and watched a dreadnought of fog
swallow the town lights one by one.
You told me as a child you often slept
on a cot beside your father and dreamed
the Angel of Death came in the shape of an opal fog
and carried you beyond reach of the lighthouse,
and then you undressed me as if there was something
in the taste of my skin that could save you
from another night of wanting to die.

That summer we'd wade out naked past the breakers
and whatever there was of a moon laced your breasts
in antique strands of silver ivy. The black water
pitched up against your back as you straddled me
for the last time, biting hard into my lip
as if you wanted to leave a mark on me.
Swimming back to our clothes I lost sight of you
in the shorebreak that rose out of nowhere
like the blurred sight of a fist we see
just moments before the deathblow,
and I am still halfway convinced that something
that died years ago in the riptide came back
and pulled you down into its arms.

Tonight the air is embalmed with the silence of fog
that hangs over the town like a death threat.
I breathe the salt of a Nor' easter
and remember the persistent chill of your fingers
as you placed them around the handles of my body.
I unfold the Barlow knife you gave me
and recall how you said the scars on your arm
were simply a means for keeping time.
When the harsh light of this room straps against my face
and the fog strangles my thoughts until there is no logic
beyond the blade of this knife I will come to understand
the sudden rush of headlights skimming up the road
as if two angels were coming to bring me the news
of how they delivered you themselves
with their own blinding opal wings.