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Published: Fri Oct 15 2010
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.

My blue-lipped, unsubtle mother, this summer sea
wants me stretched out naked on her bed.
Her glib tongue’s numbed my pulses. Soothingly,
her kisses cooled the bruises on my head:

fontanelle and temple, ear and eye
ceding their fever to the spray’s plump lips.
Her grey flesh begs my health and youth to die.
Cold grease, her kisses smeared along my lips.

Yet her waters washed away the mortal stain
of childhood’s wishing to remain a child.
Sad fats and acids ate into my brain.
I saw where the dogfish kept his white bones piled.

I saw a mare’s nest float on the ocean, wild
stallions ramp to mount each swaybacked wave.
Horseshoe-crab-tail trocars rasped and filed
my neck free of her torc. The salt-walled cave-

mouth gripped and gaped behind my murdered head.
Crisp seafoam laced a skullcap round my crown.
No Queen of Egypt fished me into bed.
I was Moses, I dozed and floated, only face down.

I held my breath and did the dead man’s float,
eyes closed, my lashes fanned by gill and fin.
On the third day I began to bloat
till not a wrinkle marred my silvered skin.

Stiff fiddlers picked stitches from that too-tight coat,
my eyelids jimmied open by the blue
crab claws unknotting fascia from nerve tissue.
The pigfish dribbled flesh. I heard the shoat

grunt his hunger. Gold and silver coins
hissed on the waters. What I saw was scales
falling from the mermaid’s dragon tail.
I dipped there where the human woman joins

the salty furrow closing round my cries.
I was her husband. She was no one’s wife.
Her broad flukes stirred the waters into life.
Her sequins pressed pale half-moons in my thighs.

No. Three weeks I drifted while our banns were read
to the bell buoy’s hammering angelus.
Calm nights the stars fell. They lay like spread
petals on the waters over us.

No. Calm nights the stars fell. They lay like bread
upon the water till the dawn wind blew
the seabirds ravening after them, and drew
the plumes of whitecaps crashing on my head.

Waves smashed Atlantis back to pink-grained sand.
The moon is both a grinding wheel and knife.
But we were lovers in a former life!
I held her crescent scepter in my hand.

See what's inside AGNI 72

Martin Edmunds is the author of a prose chapbook, La Danza de las Zarzas (Dance of the Brambles; Frolic Press, 2015) and a chapbook of poems, Black Ops (Arrowsmith Press, forthcoming spring 2018). His writing has appeared in A Public SpaceLittle StarThe Paris ReviewAGNIThe New Yorker, and elsewhere. He was awarded a 2012 artist fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and three of his poems were honored in the W. B. Yeats Society of New York’s poetry competition in 2017. Poems of his were also chosen for Under 35: The New Generation of American Poets and the 1987 Avon Anthology. (updated 4/2018)

Edmunds’s book The High Road to Taos was reviewed in AGNI 42 by Don Share.

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