By John Thomas Tuft

The walls are painted a pale true yellow

On the beds rests an old man of the sea

Oxygen tubes creasing his ancient beard

Holding out weathered hands in a silent plea

I try hard to swallow as I enter the room

He motions me to a chair beside the bed

He scans the room as though searching the horizon

Charting a course to steer clear o’ distant dread

“When you’re flying the reach on a following sea

Or watching for deadheads till your brain is flaggin’

Off in the distance is it red right returning?

Or are you riding the waves with the dancing dragon?”

He ran out of breath and laid back his head

“She was a good ship,” he whispered, “I’ve always wanted to thank her.”

“Please captain,” I said, knowing that he needed to sleep.

He warned me off, “It’s time I be weighing anchor”

“To the port there may linger sandbars and eddies

To the starboard may hover shoals and rocks

But one thing I know – keep your spinnaker full

I’ll dance with the dragon until the water music stops.”

I open the window so he could listen to waves a’crashing.

“Don’t weep for me,” he said, “I see the dragon’s eye,

One more time I’ll ride that devil’s tail a’thrashing.

So, watch for me dancing where the water meets the sky.”

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.

From TEARS ON DIAMONDS, photo of Bok Kai heads by John Hollis