The rivers retracted
and showed their bones,
everything fleeing at the screaming
tsunami called death—
crashing toward one man,
swallowing every height and depth,
the legions of Neptune’s fury
breaking heaven’s promise
of protection.

He wailed to the sky,
trapped in a corner,
the terror of knowing
his heart would soon stop
pumping the blood in his body,
and his brain was going dark.

He didn’t want
to feel water fill his stomach,
make its home inside,
and shut off all his breakers,
becoming nothing
but a pasty, water-logged body
in a coral casket,
while cathedral hymns
scraped his loved ones’ ears
their eyes burning from the incense.

Why should this man die—
the guy who heard in thunder
that he was beloved
and pleasing to heaven,
who healed disease
and never sinned?
Why would his fight
and flight and freeze kick in,
if it was all meant to be fine?

For all of time, our humanity
worked to the bone
to do good enough,
to avoid the date
of our last breath.
Maybe, somehow,
every selfless donation
would balance out
the hemorrhaging
collection jar,
and euphoria
resulting from religion
must be God’s approval—
but every paycheck earned,
was another ticket to the grave.

There was no action
good enough,
that could save even
the chosen one of God.
His own humanity
was just as doomed as mine—
no angels, lightning,
parting of the seas.
He was going to be wrapped
in cloth and buried
in the earth he loved so dearly.

In the final gasps before
the water took him,
a vision of his cousin approaching—
timely words of comfort,
a warm hand on his purpled cheek:

“I’ve been swallowed too,
by the vengeful waters,
and they will not overcome you.
They may take your vision,
and punch out your breath,
but he who believes in God
will never die,
for on the other side, you’ll find
the fear you had
is gone for good,
and all that’s left is
a dove in your hands
and family breakfast
on the shore.”

His lungs groaned,
the trees and stones
ripped apart by leviathan,
a rag doll thrashed in the jaws
of lustful sharks—
a bloody floundering,
his oxygen and survival mode
were failing,
but he ignored the taunts of quitting
and bared his teeth believing
that God did not abandon.

One by one the lights
went out, and he
was forced to close his eyes.
In his dying, he was finding
what all flesh was dying to know:
God also baring his teeth
at death beside him,
yielding to the power
of choosing to be
knit together,
no matter what hell may come.

Fully resting in his mind
the words that he was still
heaven’s favorite son—
he opened his mouth
and took one long drink.