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The Sun, the Ship

the sun shone

as it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Auden, “Musée des Beaux Arts”

Say I have finally died. Say grief has run

the last grain of me through its fist

and I lie piled and dull, raw material.

If I could be remade, I would not be.

I am done dragging my leaden shoes

through fields ringed with panic,

done lesioning the soil with my nettled shadow.

Let me choose that inhuman coin

of a sun, or the golden ship flying

beneath it toward what might have been

a meteorite, toward what left no stain,

no frozen monolithic wave.

I am ready to see something amazing—

an explosion, a sudden cancer,

a boy falling out of the sky and into the arms

of the water, any gun—

and not run

my mind like trees through a pulper,

wondering when my child's turn will come.

For this I would kill all that is warm

and weak in me. I would flush the rot

until my body rinses clear and calm.

Let me sail on lukewarm currents that offer

no recognition of the bodies that fall

through them, though the spray still hangs

like smoke an inch above the water’s face.


Claire Wahmanholm is the author of Night Vision (winner of the 2017 New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM chapbook contest) and Wilder (winner of the 2018 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry). Her second collection, Redmouth, is forthcoming from Tinderbox Editions in 2019. Her poems have most recently appeared in, or are forthcoming from, West Branch, The Louisville Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Paris-American, anthropoid, Bomb Cyclone, Fairy Tale Review, New Poetry from the Midwest 2017, PANK, Bennington Review, Newfound, and DIAGRAM. She lives and teaches in the Twin Cities.

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