Kevin Prufer

What Is This Ship?

What is this sleep? The waves lull me to it.
Heavy body, whimper in a curl of surf—

What is this wave but a rocking in my sleep?
Slip of sea where a far ship's fires reflect.

Sleep, sleep—sometimes I am almost dead,
floating like a tired raft in a slow tide.

Or I am an unknotted raft whose boards
are soft where a leak seeps in.

Guilt, guilt a distant foremast says
in its creak and gutter

while a dull wind shudders past the sails,
pushes them out like breath.

It would be better if he were cast into the sea
a cross about his neck. It would be better—

In a dream I was cast into a sea
while the men on the deck

put their hands to their mouths
and cried. I lay on my back

and the men said, Sin, their voices woody
and sad. The hope was I would find a cure

for the push of waves that wetted my boards.
But the sky was a rope stretched over the surf,

my body turning like a raft at sea.

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© 2001 Electronic Poetry Review