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 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.