Maritime Age

by Benji Katz

Inglorious submarine voyages consumed
my best years he mournfully boasts, rocking
the rubber-band joints of a grandchild weighing
on his kneecap, moment-by-moment, visit after
foggy visitation. They told us a waterlogged day
lasted twenty-six hours. Ten in the engine room
sweltering, ten with sockets suctioned to periscopes
endlessly blue, six beneath a cigarette blanket
negotiating sleep with a sardine’s bunk. None
at the helm. The toddler, a lump getting bored
on his lap, smiles naively at jowls. They’ll never know
what it’s like to be buried by millions of gallons
of water! he gripes to his daughter, nursing the baby,
his son-in-law nursing a tonic-depleted spirit.
And you think that’s a shame? she implores,
prying a teething-wet mouth from her nipple.
The old patriarch winces into an inquisitive
squint that somehow lends clarity to hearing loss.
They’ve got it too good he proclaims, in relation
to the chronic discomfort he has appeased
so begrudgingly. She plops down the newlyfed
newborn on his one open thigh as if that could quell
the kvetching. You should be thankful for that.
The dyslexic lip reader recalls dependence on ripples
of sonar reaching to dark, inexplicable depths
and concludes, No. I should be thanked.