by Diana L Conces

The ocean whispers to him in pings,
so close she folds her cold around him,
trailing delicate fingers of wave along
the smooth skin of the USS Colahan.
Hunched over the radar, breath taut,
his ears strain to her voice.

Vibrating under the weight of sifting
mere driftwood from torpedoes,
he hears them say he’s the best,
then send him below decks
entrusting the pale flicker of lives
to someone who isn’t.

In his bunk, he can’t hear
each metallic
booms impending death.

He takes to hiding in a closet off duty,
bleary eyed, unable to sleep, waiting
to hear death in each small sound.
One day, three weeks in, they find him,
and put him on shore leave in Japan
where he dates the girl from Nagasaki,
wonders if her breasts were irradiated.

The daylit ocean speaks sweet
nothings in her above-water voice,
hush and splash,
but in the darkness, she calls,
pulling him struggling below the surface
into the ping and clunk of dreams.

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