The night sky is an ocean. The night sky is not an ocean. Two boys were set adrift beneath the night's waves in the belly of a fish (it was not a fish). In the moonlight the greyhound bus
glows silver and can be mistaken for something beautiful, although it is not beautiful. One of the boys sleeps untroubled, his head resting on the shoulder of the other. The other stares at the sky and thinks that it is like an ocean, and thinks that the bus is a fish swimming along the highway, which is a current of the night's ocean. The sleeping boy is fifteen, his name is Adrian and he rests with the innocent
arrogance of the young. He believes that everything will be all right because it has always been that way. The older boy is seventeen, not quite a man, but quickly leaving behind the traces of childhood. He hangs onto the vestiges and dreams with his eyes open. His name is Gabriel
, like the angel who will one day blow the trumpet, but he is not an angel. Gabriel cannot sleep. Gabriel stares at the sky and writes down impressions in his notebook
and breathes in quick, shallow gasps as if he were afraid of drowning. The land beyond the highway is black and flat and Gabriel feels a strange melancholy
. Although he can hear the droswy murmurs and soft snoring of the other passengers, sometimes it feels as if he and Adrian are the only ones left in the world. The breathing is almost in unison, it reminds him of the sounds of waves breaking on the shore
If the night sky is an Ocean, thinks Gabriel, where then is its shore? In the faint light the other passengers look greenish and sickly. Drowned, thinks Gabriel, and a small frisson of terror passes through him. He stares at the girl across the aisle from them; sleeping slackjawed and splay-legged with headphones over her ears, her dyed and greasily sleek hair could be greenish purple hanks of kelp, and although her eyes are closed now how would they appear when they open? Those are pearl that were her eyes, whispers Gabriel. Ghosts of the drowned are the most vengeful, the most restless. As if hearing his thoughts, the girl chuckles derisively in her sleep, mutters "fuck" and turns her face away from him. Gabriel writes down the word fuck in his notebook and underlines it, then comments beneath, some of the smallest of things are essential. He is restless and everything he gazes upon is transformed by his imagination into something else. Gabriel writes down the phrase Sea Change, beneath writes, "Nothing of him doth remain. Remember that". He fears becoming lost, he fears losing himself to the cruel vagaries of his imagination, to the strange vividity of his dreams. This notion is reinforced by something written five years before. He was never sure whether it was meant to be a curse or a prophecy. He has never been good at reading between the lines.
Shore, Night, Ocean, Dream, smoke and sorrow, Gabriel plucks these six words from his thoughts and his wide awake dreams and starts to write a sestina. The poem form is soothing to him. Its constraints and rigidity allow him to focus on the mechanics of writing, the bones of the poem. It gives him respite from the thoughts that torment, it gives him a breath of fresh air beneath the cold night's sea. He uses a good pen and a cheap notebook. The pen is a comfortable weight in his hand. His handwriting is execrable; tiny chicken scratch that will be illegible to anyone else and barely legible to him. The lines of the poem come relunctantly, and he feels the world slow down as he counts the feet of each one. He whispers, stressed-unstressed, stressed-unstressed absentmindedly and jabs at each syllable with his pen. Adrian stirs in his sleep. The poem takes shape. To no one in particular, Gabriel mutters, "witches." Despite his insistence in the orderly and the rational in his everyday speech, despite his desperately clinging to the understandable and the logical a certain fearful belief in magic and the unknown world always creeps into his writing. The daydreams he tells no one about, the sudden metaphors he does not discuss (how the night sky is an ocean!) take form in anything he writes. His mouth tight now, Gabriel puts away his good pen and his cheap notebook. He gently tousles Adrian's unruly curls. There is no more point in writing now.
"You will have to leave here after the funeral. You have relatives in Denver. You will have to stay with them," she said, "this is no longer your home."
She had a clipboard and a steely gaze and support hose.
Gabriel looks at the stars. Once he had read in a magazine that certain people believe that the stars are not stars but openings in the heavens where the dead can look down on the living. It is not a thought that comforts him. He will not speak of it to Adrian. His poor, wounded brother whose grey eyes seem as if they see forever; Adrian of the insights. No, thinks Gabriel, he will not mention this thought, Adrian is burdened enough by the dead. Before sunrise, they will reach the mountains and begin the climb higher into the night sky, into the inky ocean with its shoals of stars.