Days pass like drops in a naked eye;
the gray pestle-grind of light on wet boards
where he paces, blind and burning
to sustain the words in his mind
words which grow dull like agates
hoarded for too long in the same pocket.
The bloated hold below him groans
and sways with animal unease.
Hands on the wooden beams,
his bones are growing gnarled
he cannot tell their stench from his own,
his skin is stretched thin like tarpaulin,
it cannot hold, not forever, but
there are times he thinks he hears
in the brush of a wing against iron,
the bellow of a bull –a voice, perhaps –
but the waves come again to throw
their savage sound over his thoughts,
their moans more felt than heard,
like the dumb language of the stomach.
Night on the sea is darkest
because the shadows surge from beneath
to palm this earthly evidence
this floating cradle for the salt-mad man –
he rocks in the slap slapof water
a fitful infant lulled against its will
by the beat of a tyrannical heart.