This Rotten Carcass of a Boat

No see um’s dance in shafts of light.
He flicks middle finger
against thumb, plays a gigue
against gouged wood, beats the conveyance
that brought him here.

His sight dwindling in one eye, pain
of nerves, and no absinthe
to dilute a life lived for the sake
of mastering girl and slave.

He feels sand grind against
his naked shin, foot buried
in semblance of the boat whose stern
succumbed to what seemed
at first as full of mystery as any land.

His foot, that little boat, infected
by the red of Mars. Skin
that will not heal
despite these new spells of Miranda.

Each day she brings a snail to sit upon
the ankle, its little house the one
he wants to own. Now she that claims
her own magic, a voice oozing slime
(as liquid moves more slowly than the sun)—

-Judith Skillman

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