The first signs: he didn’t sweat,
tired easily, lay on the bed like brackish water 

eddying in pools. 
Then, silence of sand and gulls far off. 

He didn’t rise. A doctor came. Another. 
No one recognized the yellowed eyes, 

that the blood was slowing in his veins—
And he also loved ships, my father, wanting 
instead of losing his mind piece by piece 
to be cast in a canoe onto the sea. 

For those weeks he was Odysseus, stooped, 
who had thought his journey over,

but now had to carry the oar across his shoulders 
into the desert until he reached the town 

that had never seen a shore. 
And we were the villagers, 

circling the stranger with the sun-baked skin,
bidding him drink, 

because that seemed the only thing to say.
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