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Missing Danny at the Beach

for Daniel C. Roper, IV,
September 9, 1995 - December 4, 1995

by Janice Roper, 9/24/96

reprinted with permission

My birthday boy. One year old,
smiley red lips, a whisper, like a breath
would have been. Light fingers across my cheek.
An imprint of you.

My baby boy. Chubby pink flesh,
soft wiggly hugs and quiet sleeping
might have been. In my arms,
slipping into my heart. Disappearing
into an ocean of dreams.

My blue-eyed son. Squealing
like seagulls, trying to catch
or follow them.
Sand on your hands and knees.
Disappearing in a wave,
a small indent, then nothing,
a ripple, an invisible shimmer
wet like my tears
bright, blinding like the sun
like my pain, my son,
when I remember
those squeals are not from you
it is another boy
the age you would have been.

He is starting to walk
fat steps, small sandy footprints.
His mother catches him, they are
giggling.
Another wave comes,
grasping at those dark prints,
destroying that imprint,
dissolving my hopes for you
until I cannot see
past the next minute.

I touch my cheek but feel
only gritty and wet
while time drags me
further from you
into its dark ocean
where I might
forget to breathe too.

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