All Hands & the Cook by Travis Brown

                                               for my brother

Alabastrine clouds were turning ashen.
They were always raining then.

All night long her muscles did twitch.
All night long her nerves did fidget.
All night long his ears did itch.

Always the things she said were said again:

You try singing in this hailstorm
You try on this bag of bones like a fur coat
You try this having been a mother

Inside him, her shipwrecked ghost.
In its possession, the noise of crows.

It’s not the voice we praise the angels with.
It’s not the voice he bathes the babies with.

It is his mouth washed out with soap.

It is his hair lost.
It is his basin clogged.
It is his hope. No,

it had to come to this:
her thumbnail paring found him
& ripped him from the cliff.

It mattered little what was hers.
Little what footing remained.

Did I mention that the boat had sunk?
That the fish had swum off?
That all his wishes had been drunk up?

But there was one last turnoff, mate.
One last plank.

It was time to take the garbage out.
Time to bite the lemon rind.

Even if his heart were thrown in with the wash.
Even if it all turned out as red as a radish.

His hands didn’t starve.
His hands stood on deck at dawn,
though the broth was thin.

When the devils came to dine
they sliced carrots for his eyes

& he dreamed like a knife.

by Travis Brown
published in Diode

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