by Amanda Cleary Eastep
Clinging to a barrel, my grandfather floats in the Pacific Ocean.
His ship, burning, sinks into dark water.
A Navy man who has never learned to swim now puts his hope in wreckage.
Men he loved, men he didn’t, men he fought beside, die.
Some, only brief survivors, escape the vortex of the monolithic cruiser to become the victims, not of the Japanese, but of sharks.
He hears the screams of his shipmates, dismay and disbelief rising above gunfire and waves.
I never asked him what he thought about while floating in the water. If he prayed or wept or made deals.
The ship sinks in minutes.
To the bottom of what becomes known as Ironbottom Sound.
To the top rises Ernest August, son of German immigrants.
Today we remember those who died.
I can’t help but be thankful, also, for one who lived.