I won’t despair, for Saint Augustine
taught that no one must die penitent
Dying penitent the last thing
on my mind as I sit quietly relaxed
at the eclectic Red Frog
roadside burger and grog stop
tucked in the Gold Country’s bosom,
with grand vistas of a river canyon
through which transcontinental trains
heavily encumbered chug for Reno.
Out on the covered rear deck
locals yak enthusiastically, indulge
in mango margaritas, watermelon
daiquiris, and host of imported beers.
A rather rotund lady,
somewhat sloshed, cell phone
in hand, is mortified at photos
her daughter shares on Snapchat.
Others playing liar’s dice
slam cups on the bar counter,
shielded from intense summer heat.
One particularly rustic patron,
his braided gray hair reaching
all the way down his back,
beard like a big tuft of cotton,
enlightens a group of friends about
his recent exploits with an uncle.
They drove all the way down the coast
through Big Sur to Morro Rock beach
where that mammoth monolith looms
just beyond the shore, then boarded
kayaks and braved Pacific waves.
Out, out, and then around
that huge rock they navigated,
unafraid of sharks, the salt water
splashing, crashing all about.
One kayak blessed with a rudder,
the other without, those hearty souls
continued their perilous journey,
for that ocean is deep and the crafts
vulnerable to unforgiving elements.
Nearly upended by a rogue wave
the two fortunately made it back
to open arms of the beach, aided
by high tide and serendipity,
fortunate not to be swallowed
by hostile currents and undertow.
I listen to him, unable to help
pondering what penitence
those two might have suffered
had their expedition failed, they
victims of Nature’s omnipotence.
About the Poet
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry has
appeared in numerous publications, including Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Quarterly, Literature
Today, Poetry Salzburg, South African Literary Journal, The Frogmore Papers, and many more.
His books of poetry are Ballad of Billy the Kid, Monterey Bay Adventures, and Mercurial World.
For the first time in nearly five years, Vita Brevis is closed for submission. Read the full story here.