No idea who wrote it, but it's a haunting (to me) poem from the point of view of a sailor who saw a shipmate swept overboard twenty years ago.
*The Mistral hits like a bomb in October, a northerly wind reaching across the stretch between Marseille and Corsica.
It howls as it passes, then the sky turns the clearest of blues, and a cold descends.
Safe behind the wall at Antibes, you feel the summer draining away as fallen leaves twist and fly across the ancient stones. On the sea, it rides there, in your mind. Mistral.*
*A quick job, four bolts, a gasket, some wires. Ten minutes, maybe. We gathered the parts and eyeballed the horizon. It was gusty day.
Silvery patches of light skidded across the iron colored seas, whitecaps everywhere. The ship moved easily—she was a big one, with the feel of safety itself.
Long, easy rolls in that autumn sea.*
*It was time. We descended to the deck, the two of us, hands busy with the tools. We came to it, and it worked quickly. Few words were spoken—Move, go. Move, go.
The deck edges dipped in an easy rhythm, maybe six inches of cold water running to us, then away, the deck half awash, half flowing. Almost done now.*
*We both felt it. I suppose. The light shifted in that way a sailor can sense. I looked toward him, then beyond.
A meter to the rail? A little more? Oh God! I curled up, locking my arms across the bitts. Instinct really, blind luck to be at that one place above all others...nothing more. I'm sure.
*Maybe a heartbeat passed as we went under. Two meters perhaps, but did it really matter? The light returned as the water drained away.
Then slowly, I lifted my head, eyes locked to the empty deck.*
*Twenty autumns have pass so far. Each time the air grows cold, and the light is just so, I go to the shore and look out, eyes probing that silvered horizon.
On the Great Beach below the waves keep on with their crashing, here on this island place.
Their rumble still drifts up the dune face, reaching me as I huddle in the grasses above, around me, the sand gently releasing the last of summers' warmth.*
*His face is faded now.*
*Was it like being carried by a thousand hands, the way it felt as a child tossed aside by the waves below, at this very shore?*
*Was it that same surprising, laughing, bubbling, pushing high and low all at once, everywhere, everything, feet lifting, legs and body massaged and carried by the churning water?*
*What was it like to look up...and see only sky?*