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.
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, Fence, Together 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.
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