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Eric Michael Hines

The day I first lived,
Death played me a jingle 
In organ tongue
Half-past nightfall 
Off the shore of the Chesapeake… 

I lost my job that morning. 
A decade wasted 
Counting sums I’d touch only illegally,
Smoked away on a torrent of decaf blends
And three-ring binders
That bound my sanity.
I cried in a restroom stall,
Quietly though,
So the men at the urinals wouldn’t hear.

On the way home, the highway spoke like a mother,
Dried my eyes with her breath,
And called me down the parkway.
Like a son, I followed 
Without knowing why. 

The road brought me past the Chesapeake. 
It shimmered in the moonlight
Like an earthbound aurora.
My heart pumped to
The beat of a song I heard once in a dream
Of my life as it should have been,
And for some reason,
I stopped alongside that road. 

I went into the woods
And found a sturdy branch.
With a paper clip and some floss
From my boss' briefcase,
I made myself a magic fishing rod for catching dreams

I ran out into the surf with my rod and screamed at waves
Which roared back whispers,
Pushing me,
Vomiting my filth back to the sand. 
They slapped me
And I cussed them with prayer. 

“I’m not leaving ‘til I take something back, or you kill
me!” I said. “Go right ahead, God! Kill me, you coward! Erase this
mistake like all the other ones! I dare you to show yourself!” 

My rebellion was fun for only a moment. 
I stepped blindly over the edge of an undertow
And sank beyond the brink of shallows.
Desperate hands clawed 
The blackness. 
It swathed all around;
Still and warm like a cradle.
Deeper, deeper I fell.
The bitter brine kissed my throat
With honey far sweeter than my damned heartbeat.
I chose the mirror black beneath the sky. 

At that moment, the shadows of the future
Danced with the echoes of the past,
And I heard the choirs 
Only good men hear
And the gnashing
For men like me. 
My life was a fantasy tale
Alone on the shelf,
Unread by even myself. 

A voice came to me in the darkness. 


I thought it was an Angel denying my entrance into Heaven. The voice drew tears
from eyes that weren’t mine. I saw the body spinning below in a silent

“It’s not me,” I told myself. The truth hung before me, but I
didn't want it. It was over. 

Then I heard the love.

“No,” said the voice again. “Live.”

Cool fire 
Carried me down
A tunnel 
Toward the light
Of birth.

I was delivered from the water free,
Under the Iunar midwife.
I was a newborn baby-boomer
Flying with tattered wings. 
My eyes flowed and






I asked for a sign,
And got a billboard,
And a strike two.
I caroused with the end
And found the beginning
With a magic fishing rod and a nightmare, 
Off the shore of the Chesapeake.

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