I watched the man walk out of the surf
stepping smoothly onto land
I sat atop a rock and watched
as he gracefully offered me his hand

He told me his name
Which I had heard before
A man who had lived in this town
Until he did not return to shore

His face did not match my memory
Smooth, serene and surreal
I stared at his youth and beauty
as he explained his deal

He had found himself drowning
A great wave had stolen his breath
And pulled beneath the waves
He had felt the grip of death

He was offered a task
From the darkness swelling below
Drown one hundred others
And the sea would let him go

He never granted mercy
for each expired life
dragged to the waiting darkness
Led him closer to his child and wife

The last sacrifice, he described
Had not taken a step from the shore
Sat on a rock, her feet in lapping waves
Staring out into a rising storm

He had met her in a sudden wave
The old woman fighting lamely
He happily pulled her to the darkness
and left her to finally see his family

His story finished, the man smiled
I had remained silent for it all
He asked where he might find his wife
And his lad, who should be three or four

My reply was swift.
Though meant for another purpose
The knife served me well
and between his ribs it took purchase

I let him fall to the ground
I watched him recognise his error
And as the waves dragged him back
I saw a face awash in grief and terror.

I left the rock where I had sat
As my mother had before
Hoping for her husband’s return
when he did not return to shore.

2 thoughts on “Return

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