Study for the Boatsman

Peter Mishler

Single tenant 
of his emptied city, 
coat blown open,  

he carries a bucket 
of quicklime 
to the coast. 

The birds make 
their derisive whistles, 
watching from the woods. 

On a sun-bleached 
colonnade at dusk 
he leans against a pillar 
drinking discontinued colas. 

The frieze behind his head: 
children eaten by a fish. 
It’s chiseled into stone. 

He must have seen to it 
himself, must have studied it 
with approbation, 
limestone in his hair. 

Later in his whirlpool 
he presents himself 
a single darkened plum. 

Watch the warping 
of his face 
in its reflection, 

its flesh swallowed gratefully, 
the pink stone spit 
nto the garden below. 

Former master of The Dove, 
head bent to his chest 
and water beading in his hair, 

he sleeps in his bath 
then wakes at dawn 
to heft the refuse 
from the tidal pools: 

slabs of viaduct and filigree, 
half-skeletons of ruminants. 
His eyes eager and wild, 

and wavering 
like the honeycombs 
at the edge 
of his very vast forest.