When you were small, visiting the sea in South Carolina, just a few insouciant feet of boy, of brother, just nine, me twentysomething, you wandered off in search of crabs to fill your pail and found yourself alone at the edge of the island. You were lost. Mother and Father were watching you play, got sidetracked, and then, you were not there. The dark was falling over the waves and filling the sky and you were goosebumpy in your paltry swimming trunks and your toes were bare. I saw the pale moon and I knew, that soon, it would be night, you told me later, when you were safe again, recounting those harrowing epiphanies the way they had unfolded. You had a poet’s way, already, and I was both elated and sorry. The same blood ran in our veins, and I wondered how I could have saved you from the pain of beauty and truth. At the same time, I couldn’t want to: I knew how there was no greater gift than the strange spell of words and wonder you were already under. I couldn’t stand the thought of the emptiness that was only almost, a world where you had gone and drowned before you bloomed. That’s what they thought when the dusk came and you were still not found; they told Mom and Dad the harsh probabilities up front, gathered men at the camp to start combing the island to find you. Knew they would likely return with empty hands. But you had not floated out into the deep. You were busy writing your name in the sand so the helicopters would see where you had been. Later Dad said he had crumpled in the waiting, wondering how to call and tell his girls back home that they were coming back without you. And you, on sand-burned tippie-toe, were orchestrating your survival. Miles down the shore, you saw a lady closing her camp and approached her. My name is Robbie, you said, and I’m lost. She curled her fingers in your little hands and covered you in a towel, and you walked and walked and told her everything you could about your cabin. Then after a long, long while you saw island police and the swooping flashlights of the search party and you knew they were for you. You were almost there. Dad ran to you and his face was wet and shiny. This is what you remembered: how the half-moon was yellow by then, a firefly flitting above the waves. There was a warm bath, a teaspoon of brandy in sweet tea, and small sandwiches the neighbours had already made and brought over on paper plates. The threat was done and over before I knew anything was wrong, but still I stumble, three decades later, at the perilous abyss into which we had nearly stumbled. How I would be so lost: how close we stood to chance, to a life without each other.
Lorette C. Luzajic is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review, an online journal dedicated to writing inspired by art. Her own poetry has appeared in several hundred online and print publications, including Indelible, Wild Word, Nine Muses Poetry, Misfit Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Black Coffee Review, Heart of Flesh, and more. She was twice nominated last year for a Pushcart Prize, as well as for Best of the Net. She is currently at work on her fifth collection of poetry, her second ekphrastic book. Visit her at http://www.mixedupmedia.ca.