As the wall of water washed in,
he swam out. As the waves crashed,
he bobbed under, popping back up—
swimming farther and farther out.
He looked back at us waving our arms
and his dark-lit shape on the horizon
seemed to understand a certain peace
that none of us could comprehend.
His body was found four days later
bloated on top some boulders;
Half eaten and covered in seaweed.
I don’t suppose I have to tell you
that for the boy who was always
going against the tide, there was
a closed casket ceremony and an
inconsolable mother, named Helen.
She pasted all his class photos
on foam core poster board, beside him.
Scanning his eyes— from age 5 to 15,
we all understood why we were there.
From the day he was born, he knew
this day, without him, was inevitable.
We were not there
because of the cucumber sandwiches;
Although they helped us stick around
a little while longer, before it was our turn
to touch the cedar and say goodbye—
to the boy who swam beyond the breakers.
None of us kids knew him too well.
He’d only moved here the Summer
before last. And our mothers did not like
us hanging out with him, for reasons
they never gave except to say,
“because I said so.”