Weekend Poetry: The Boatman and Other Poems

The Boatman

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

around absence

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

stands. Unequal

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.

Beaver damn

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.

 

Streetlight reflected

Streetlight reflected

in raindrops shaken

from a crane’s bill.

Caught between, caught

without.

 

[Mud-footed lilies]

Mud-footed lilies

outside the crumbling

malaria ward. Fallen

birch trees peeling

in bog water.

Adam Day

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