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When Did We Agree Honor and Family Come First

Patricia Bender

We stay for hours on the one night left to us on the old boardwalk. The main harbor glows from wet decks and glinting bridge lights. Here working ships and boats move around all day

and well into the night, luminescent with sweat and sea air. People and products and people and produce spill in and out of the vessels at a courageous pace. On this night, empty of moon or stars, each ship moves silently out of its berth and slips into the ocean and away from us. If the tugboat boat captain and crew exchanged words, we don’t hear them. There seems to be no one on the decks of the container ships. We do not talk about the tugboats, the ships, the cargo or anything at all. An engine growl washes over us. Night birds screech overhead. Waves big and small hit the rough planks of the pier. Over and over. The air dampens, moving us closer to each other. We hold on to our minutes left before the sun blazes.

Patricia Bender’s work has appeared in Beir Bua Press, Trasna, the Paterson Literary

Review, Southword, Switch, and THE GREAT FALLS ANTHOLOGY, among others.  A

National Writing Project Fellow, she serves on the Editorial Board of the New Jersey English

Journal, and as a United Nations Volunteer online editor.

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