I can remember the scent of seaweed,
of sand and slick rock
walking the curve of the wall
as the ocean nears high tide
and lashes white foam at your feet.
Eyes are trained on every wet step
bearing witness to tide pools
that disappear into the oncoming waves
like adolescence into the outlying graves of time.
At this edge, this place covered over
by mollusc and graffiti,
the sea wall to Red Rock
holds one image that I have never forgotten.
It endures seasons,
beginnings and endings,
the birth of nephews and nieces,
to bookend multiple weddings
and the death of a friend.
There were four of us that night,
singing and banging on a makeshift drum.
It always claimed a tiny corner in the long ago
but not so any longer as I round the corner
ever so cautiously…
stepping onto Red Rock;
with only a solitary gull
perched on the salt stained hull of frozen waves.
I think of Matt Robinson and try to write something
but it is too cold to grip a pen for long.
So, I just think of him here,
when he was alive,
where he once sat and sang “Whiskey Bar”
into the night and to the far off beacon light
beyond the Point, where all souls go.
As the waves came in surging
we answered with our own voices emerging
from out of the din of useless instruction.
We were still in high school,
the four of us;
myself, Jeff, DiLiberti and Matt.
Myriad lives and paths ahead,
maybe surreptitiously sipping the red
smuggled wine that helped fill our lungs,
warm us against the cold
and help us forget time
as we sang over the waves
at the curve of our world.
It never warned us of the future,
that perhaps we’d never again have this moment together.
It wasn’t Lynn, Swampscott nor Boston
but somewhere in between
the doors of white coastline mansions
and derelict shacks by the tracks,
the edges of twilight
and distant skyscrapers all stacked
in watchful waiting,
baiting each of us to scatter from our roots
out west in the coming years of pursuit
of dreams and something beyond these well worn walls.
I think of Matt Robinson now,
like I was not able to out there.
His passing, once an idea,
now becomes tangible in this physical space.
He was a kid from the neighborhood,
St. Pius, Lynn English,the same age,
his life once parallel now deceased.
I try not to think of him riddled with the disease
that has already claimed too many
but rather think of him singing that night with me
as Red Rock levitated into memory and lore.
Matt, I remember walking with you once before
on those back roads behind Essex Farms,
near my house and yours.
You mentioned you wanted to travel
and that the next time I go to keep you in mind.
We both did some traveling
but never got to take that trip together.
I forgot about that talk
and we ended up an ocean apart.
San Diego, Honolulu,
where now do you journey to?
I look for you here at Red Rock,
hear your voice in the wind singing
“Show me the way to the next whiskey bar”
and though there were those who were a lot closer
and probably kept in touch,
“I tell you we must die”
I’d like to leave an offering for you here at Red Rock
but all I can conjure up is a snowball in a gloved fist.
To shout out your name and hurl it as far as I can
into the sea and mist.
Out where you’ll melt back into the greater whole
and from the abyss
become a wave
to roll back over Red Rock for all eternity,
over me, Jeff and DiLiberti,
until we each in our own way
join you out there in the waves.