Laton Carter

Two Prose Poems

All the sailors are pigeon-toed. Their black shoes are the same size, and they climb the mast to save the ballerina who does not need saving. Hers is a dance of sails, and the salt air lifts her higher into the tradewinds.

Below, the cook is in love with the galley mate. He wants to dance too, and his ladle becomes the young man he dreams of before falling to sleep in his windowless quarters.

The chief’s mate is excellent at trumpeting warnings through a whistle. Everything deserves a warning, so the whistle blows often, and the crew scramble to their proper place, tripping over their toes and throwing glances. If the ballerina is proper in appearance, she is the least in person. Ignoring the straight lines of the boat and the physics of its ways, her passage serves to uncontain what, in the space of the vessel, is contained.

A heart does not contain love. But heaven is in the sky, and the ladle scoops away the clouds. Now the day is calm, and the chief’s mate takes to his afternoon biscuit. The cook has made them with bits of dried apricot, and he watches the crew, galley mate included, line up to try their first bite. He will never have him, the sailors will never have the ballerina, and the contained heart finds its way to break.

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Maybe she looks like Lyndon Johnson, but the hair doesn’t correspond. Her gaze on him is not really on, but through him — she’s thinking of something else. Still, the arm lays across both his shoulders, and the hand makes a claw of its work-blackened fingers around his arm. His breasts are larger than hers, and were it not for his suspenders, their nipples, through her polyester and through his cotton, might meet. This is their proximity, the half-embrace.

How long can two people live with each other? They swallow the would-be response, grin to an absentee audience, and forgive. Their roles have been pressed out as if into the fine veins of a map. This path takes you here. This one goes off course. One of us will die first.

The theater is of faces, the one again trying to read the other. The mind wanders. The secret life of daydreams rushes in.

Laton Carter has had work published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Chicago Review, The Fourth River, Narrative Magazine, Northwest Review, Notre Dame Review, and Ploughshares.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of eight books and chapbooks, including This Visit (Blazevox, 2015), How to be Another (Cervena Barva Press, 2014), and State of the Union (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2014). Her ninth book, Heisenberg’s Salon, is available now for pre-order from Blazevox. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, and Verse Daily.