Weekend Poetry: The Boatman and Other Poems
The Persians gifted civilization The Boats, in which the
accused, a sexual assailant perhaps or demagogue, is stripped,
laid on his back, fastened inside a rowboat or hollowed out
tree trunk taken from the shores of Flushing Bay or Netwtown
Creek, and drizzled with honey and milk. Then a boat
the same size, is bolted on top of that one, with holes cut
in the lower boat where the perp lies, so feet, hands
and head extend out, the rest of the body trapped
inside. A hole is also cut in the top boat above the crotch.
Then the offender is offered food, and if he declines, his eyes
are poked until his mouth opens, and milk and honey are forced
down his throat, ingested until he develops a severely distended
stomach, nausea, acute diarrhea. The hangman slathers more
milk and honey on his feet, hands, crotch and face—which is kept
toward the sun—paying particular attention to the mouth,
nostrils, eyes, and ears. Even in Manhattan, this attracts blow flies,
mites, conenose bugs, centipedes, fire ants, and wasps,
which first gather and settle on the face because of all
of the soft flesh—lips, tongue, eyes—eventually hiding it
entirely, biting and stinging the criminal, before slowly disfiguring
him. At times, he is set afloat in a stagnant body of water:
Jamaica Bay, Alley Creek, Gowanus Canal. Bodily waste accumulating
in the boats draws more insects, breeding and eating
inside the open flesh, disturbing blood flow as they burrow. Quickly,
the flesh turns gangrenous, giving rise to swarms of worms,
intestinal and otherwise, so that, one way and another, the body
goes into septic shock, delirium, and is eventually consumed across
a three week term. And for the people, somehow never goes slowly enough.
[Candles lit in a terraced]
Candles lit in a terraced
cemetery. Moon satellites
where the sky is hearsay;
delusional, piss-reeking captain.
[Bird-shit-bleached house has gone]
Bird-shit-bleached house has gone
back to snow. Mockingbird
up on a line, fucking
with the noise ordinance.
[Tree is gone but the shadow ]
Tree is gone but the shadow
unemployment. Man peed
on his dog. So many mistakes.
Pinned to the lawn
with croquet wickets, if he existed
she’d divorce him.
[Streamside trees, auburn]
Streamside trees, auburn
in what is left of spring.
breaking up. Birds build over
dated ideas of alive
like old electronics.
[Sick of fixing the car]
Sick of fixing the car
and the red trees in these autumn
hills. Grasshoppers crackle
beneath larks’ beaks, festooned
with stains, waiting
for something to happen.
[Wet leaf-muck covered the tile]
Wet leaf-muck covered the tile
of the ditched pool. Pair
of sunglasses, a golf ball,
and cell phone puddled there.
Something stepped away, sliding
the brain inside a dark sheath.
[I really am ashamed]
I really am ashamed
of my body – deserted leaves
hide the trail. It’s taking
me so long to grow up, even with
my Burberry pencil skirt suit
of warm, gray wool tweed.
in raindrops shaken
from a crane’s bill.
Caught between, caught
outside the crumbling
malaria ward. Fallen
birch trees peeling
in bog water.
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Poetry from A. M. Juster