Viewing Hour

The first thing that struck me was the scar
on his belly where the blast drove the coal
shovel in. The doctor said he should have died
back then, but his will eventually killed
the infection. As I washed his willowy body
I noticed how his breasts hung past his chest
the way waxy suet hung in folds
from his neglected feeders. His bruised arms
and legs held a lush harvest, like the plum trees
he used to prune when he worked
the farm. He warned me to keep clear
of the sore on his ear and the poison ivy
thick in the woods: Leaves of three, let it be.
Standing before me, he became the girl he teased
at recess, his genitals uselessly retracted
into a dark mine tapped out years ago.

I wrapped him in a stolen hospital towel
as he slumped on the toilet so I could shave
his scraggly face. I cursed him under
the whine of his electric razor and wished
that I had left without saying goodbye. He pulled
me down with him through mine shafts
that riddle ancient sea beds until I could not breathe,
walked me through the wet fields he scanned
as a boy for arrowheads, past the well that held
unclaimed wishes and broken whiskey bottles,
past as many births and deaths as he could
remember in the time it took one man
to bathe another. I pressed the blades hard
against his cheek to clip the stubborn whiskers,
hoping any blood I drew would summon
the sharks I knew circled a little closer every day.

Kip Knott | Mudlark No. 26
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