In morning’s gray hours
a call jangles you to duty
to be the pilot
they no longer can be.

They lost their way
fell in with the wrong crowd
followed another gone astray
through no fault of their own
good nature or intentions
were thrown off
by the ever-shifting coastline.

Marooned in the shallows
crushed by the weight of existence
they flounder in thick black muck
among mud snails, skittering crabs,
pin jimmies ready to feed on their woes.

There is no time
for the tides of good fortune
you must trek across dunes
and salty marsh
to tie old blankets beneath them
and tow them out to sea.
Keep your head
until they are in over theirs.

Pour water from bucket,
child’s plastic pail,
drape wet towels and blankets
over their sun slashed bodies
until the rising tide takes them
to new horizons.

But if confused
by their own cries
they beach once more
in muddy ooze
too weak to save themselves
despite your slaps of desperate love
scrawl “dead” on their ebony skin
so others still struggling may be saved.

Return home.
Sleep till the afternoon sun wakes you.
Brush the sand from the sheets.
Keep your old blankets.
Beyond the horizon
beneath calm waters
others are losing their way.

Jeffrey Hantover is a writer living in New York.