Captains in Captivity

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.

More Poems by Seth Abramson