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Captains in Captivity

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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)

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

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Captains in Captivity

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