“Mother, Mother Ocean” by Kelly Grace Thomas

Kelly Grace Thomas


Summer never ends
without taking. The basil gone
to seed, wildfires swallow
the coast. The morning after
Jimmy Buffett dies, my father
says, Long live the music.
It’s 6 a.m., and I’m crying
at the coffee maker. Again.
The last days of the summer
have already taken my mother.
We sang Floridays at sunset
to send her off. I can still see: before
the cancer, before California,
after the bankruptcy took everything
but the boat. We sailed south.
Wind strumming the sails.
Jimmy on the speakers, looking
for better days, blue skies
and ultraviolet rays. My mother
leaning against the hull, two
small children and a future
too heavy to float. There
isn’t ocean, or family, without
Jimmy. His watery twang. Even after
the record ends, there is still music.
A sea of stingless salt.
A mother singing.

from Poets Respond
September 10, 2023


Kelly Grace Thomas: “Jimmy Buffett meant so much to so many, especially those who loved the water (and a good time). I’m blessed to come from a family of sailors and spent my childhood sailing around Florida, singing to Jimmy’s songs. I cannot recall a memory of the ocean where Jimmy Buffett’s words were not with me. He died Labor Day weekend, the same weekend my mother died two years earlier. Both loved summer and the freedom of saltwater. It seems like neither wanted to see it end. This poem pay tribute to how mothers and music and the sea hold us. The title of this poem is taken from the Jimmy Buffett song, ‘A Pirate Looks at Forty.’” (web)

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