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Out of the Boats

Onto the beach, everybody: that’s

The dream. Saved (to be). Memory

Of someone else’s sleep. Tired

Image. Several goodnights later

They were rescued drifting, or

They were still drifting: “They

Were rescued, drifting,” the desired

Ending actually slapped damp

Into place, in some versions. How long

Did you want to stay in the rough

Draft, sharks chomping the oars,

Whitecaps (so pretty from one

Angle) (stillnesses, thick description,

Slather of paint—what it means

To look back) threatening to swamp

Our little boat? Exchanges. “I whistle

A hap…”—how the words went.

An ethical situation, hypothetic—

Like everything else. Salty.

It would cost so much to complete.

“They were...” Forever adrift, at

The whim of represented currents:

Exhausted grey line low

In the shifting distance—shore or

Edge of approaching

Tempest? Swells and hard

Gusts. An increasing sense

Of injustice. Yaw. Drift.

Splash of broken sticks amid


Churn and seethe, and if

There was ever a time to…

Now is that time. “They.”

Rescued in that we exist?

Canvas. Splinters in

My mouth. A happy…

Too expensive to finish.

Restraint Collapse

Touches and tones overlapping: echoes

Recalled and applied to the current…—

Spinning into what silence, foliage

“A bit too ring tone, maybe,” I wrote.

Seagulls on a trash can. “Critical aplomb.”

Lincoln’s wife’s seamstress. “The truth

Began to dawn”—I read as “teeth.”

Oh, but I have what I want: a strategy.

“We remember to remember to forget

In families” (Jaki Shelton Green). Cost

Of insurance, of investments: words

Taking up more and more of the space

Behind the teeth. Target dated, etc.

The “Live Safe” app you have to get,

Right now, training in “the five protective

Actions,” the “compliance requirement.”

Formerly a plantation, now an art school.

“Bound in the stuck stutter of titter

And chatter, a thing unsaid glitters.”

A single tear slipped down her face—

“The wind,” she said, “I’m fine.”

There was of course more to that

Draft (she was I was we were): so

Bitter. Gears that go flat, meshing

Stairs that in their ceaseless motion

Rise or fall from one floor to disappear

On another. “People who are North

Stars, and people who are exploding

Cigars, and those who are both…”

(Sandra Cisneros). A grooved shimmer.

Reaffirmed her dedication to our, I

Echoed from some elsewhere, friendship.

Scatter mutter. Woman sobbing, hand

Over eyes, led away by her partner.

The poet advised us to write, “As if

You were going to hide the work.”

Momentum and consensus. Reflect

On what you learned, our invited

Speaker suggested, so you can

Come from a place of strength.



Laura Mullen is the author of eight books, recent poems have appeared in Diagram, FenceTogether in a Sudden Strangeness, and Bettering American Poetry. A collection of poems is forthcoming from Solid Objects Press in 2023. She holds the Kenan Chair in the Humanities at Wake Forest University.

ISSN 2632-4423

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