dark green ocean waves

I picture my father on the cardiologist’s exam table
and hear the watery tone of his heart in the doctor’s ears.
Days ago, he asked how well I could swim,
As if we were on a sinking ship, and the time to jump is now.

His hair was a wild white tangle, the sea smoke of years.
Well, I said, assuring him that his wife and my mother
Had made sure I could tread water, use the gentle motion
of a sidestroke to get out of a rip current’s grip.

Good, he said, his words slipping through the keyhole
of certain knowledge, he wouldn’t always be there
to pull me out of the waves, to keep my head above
salt-filled darkness, the strange music of the undertow.