Captains in Captivity

By Seth Abramson Seth Abramson
She came to see him in the safehouse   
          to interface   
without biography or autobiography.   
I am, she told him, the only one here   
who cares whether you continue   
to live. I care,   
          he said, but it was formulaic.   
His propensity, not a precondition.   
          The ground beneath his feet   
smelled of everything   

          other men’s feet   
had ever ground into it. It was blank   
for all horrors, all aftermaths. A fly   
          dazzled in a sunbeam   
through the windowpane. Like water,   
he seemed to say,   
          & she agreed with him.   
I would like water, he repeated. She   

pretended not to hear him,   
because that was the sort of slippage   
          that could save him   
& suddenly she was not against it.   
He could continue to live   
if he could continue to mean himself   
or anything   
          as poorly as he had just then.

Source: Poetry (March 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2009
 Seth  Abramson


Seth Abramson is the author of The Suburban Ecstasies (Ghost Road Press, 2009). In 2008 he was awarded the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize by Poetry. A former public defender, he currently attends the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.