This week’s poem recounts a simple memory. Like the best simple poems, it contains layers. The boat in the poem is just a regular rowboat, and also, maybe, it offers a trip to the underworld, the afterlife, or whatever comes next.

In this poem, a PB&J exists side by side with a trip to a cancer center, presumably for treatment. There are no extra words here, just the necessary ones. In 12 lines, we’re pushed to consider the biggest questions.

My Boat

By Jay Franzel

My boat squats on the sticky sand behind Pete’s camp.

Was it just November Pete drove me to Dana Farber?

We ate peanut butter and jam on slabs of rye,

watched the rain roll off the wide windshield.

Those days everything I looked at seemed behind glass,

a little watery, just out of reach.

June wind blowing up whitecaps, I could return tomorrow

to row,

but tomorrow I might not get out of the recliner.

Cormorants shift on a rocky ledge,

foam soaking their claws.

I feel my boat will get me to the other side,

dragging it into the choppy cove.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Jay Franzel. It appears here by permission of the author.