restricted access Beforelife
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          My mother found measleep in an abandoned skiff,just one among hundredsin a boneyardof boats; I, just one boy          among thousands,all sleeping.

In one boat lay my unbornbrother. In another, miscarriage,          water risingthrough wooden floorboards.

And there a blackbird          with a viper in its talons.And there a girl standing—white as the flesh of an apple—          arms outstretchedmeasuring the rain.

My mother swam between boats              and lifted herselfon the gunwales, peering          into the cribs of hollow keels,          until she chose

          me, a coral snakepoisonous and docile,a body ringed in red and gold,the poison she needed,the poison              she chose. [End Page 57]

Brandon Courtney

Brandon Courtney served four years in the United States Navy and is a graduate of the MFA program at Hollins University. His poetry is forthcoming or appears in Best New Poets, 32 Poems, and the Boston Review. Thrush Press published his chapbook, Improvised Devices. His book, The Grief Muscles, is forthcoming from Sheep Meadow Press.