My father and I are lost in the Arctic Ocean when we spot a boat tearing toward us through the crust. I am on his shoulders, my feet black like cold tar. When the boat gets closer, he sets me down on the ice and we hold hands. Do you think it has come to save us I ask. Well, it is coming right at us my father says. But as it gets closer, it does not slow down. It is not slowing down I say. It is unbearably loud, an angry comet in a bright white universe, a terrible earth-splitting machine. When it gets too close, we panic and let go of each other's hands. We dive out of the way in opposite directions. Chunks of ice are thrown around our bodies. When the landscape settles again, the boat is a silent grey eye on the horizon. There is a new icy rivulet between my father and me. My father is face down in the white on the other side of the rivulet, a kind of frozen obedience. I want to yell I do not regret you but I am just a little boy. Little boys do not give birth to their fathers. There is no regret without birth. And there is no spring—all these years and no real spring and no real death.
From the very beginning, I knew exactly what would kill me. Regardless, I convinced myself that it could be anything. I convinced myself that what would kill me would be made up of any of the random things that would kill anybody else. When I walked my dog around the neighborhood, I thought I saw what would kill me hovering in the trees. When I swam in the ocean, I thought I felt what would kill me nudging at my ankles. At the grocery store—behind the cereal boxes. I grew old like this, thinking I saw what would kill me on my dinner plates, in the rabbit-shaped clouds. I grew old distracting myself from what I knew to be true. And then, just like I knew it would, it came late one night, booming with slowness, from the fjords.
Zachary Schomburg is the author of The Man Suit (Black Ocean 2007), Scary, No Scary (Black Ocean 2009), and several chapbooks including, most recently, Team Sad (Cinematheque Press 2010), a collaboration with Emily Kendal Frey. His poetry translations from the Russian of Andrei Sen-Senkov are in The Agriculture Reader, Aufgabe, Harp & Altar, Circumference and others. He has co-edited Octopus Books and Octopus Magazine since 2003. He was born in Omaha in 1977, the year of the snake, but he now lives in Portland, OR.