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Stephen Sexton

No One in Particular’s Eyes

North of Benone strand

a merchant ship three thumbs wide

floats under an unknown country,

derricks tangled on a hank of mist.

 

That’s what it looks like from the beach

dashed with oyster shells shucked clean

by seabirds and the tides abetting them.

Sunday morning, the first day of the year,

 

salt in the oddly windless air. Among

the tracks left by people and dogs—

wellingtons and the webbed paws

of a black water spaniel (Lucy)—

 

children in jodhpurs and riding helmets

leave for posterity a canter of hoof prints

in place of their own. It’s hard to say,

walking parallel to it if the ship is sailing

 

or at anchor; going about its business

or a glitch in the matrix. If the prison

had windows, the men at Magilligan

could chart the ship by the hours washing against it.

 

I knew a kid,

a friend of my brother’s. I forget his name now.

He had an itch he scratched and scratched

until he discovered

 

under the tender flesh of his wrist

a steel door with its observation hatch shut.

They picked him up one night, pearl-eyed,

dimensionless on meth

 

talking 50 inches of television

through a neighbour’s kitchen window.

How his mother could show her face

in church, people said.

 

One Christmas Day

everyone wore a pastel paper crown,

the turkey wore a tent of foil. Why didn’t the skeleton

go to the dance? He had no body to go with.

 

The phone rang and rang and rang off.

We dialled the number back: Magilligan.

The body crushed against the earth,

earth ocean, ocean sky.

 

Liminal, they say, as if

there were anything but boundaries:

water transgressing land; land sky;

the metaphor lapping against the matter.

 

At the end of the strand,

a single, black-tipped claw grows from the sand,

programmed with the last thing it reached for—

a ribbon of dulse, a mollusc, one of its own kind.

 

Not long after he got out, he drove

a borrowed hatchback into a coma

under the Pleiades. I heard that lately

he’s doing better, that he can make a fist.

 

To scratch the self away, become discarnate,

to find the under the body’s cloak

the end of the body—

I met a boy leaning over the bridge.

 

These days they’re always

cradling someone out of the river,

what the talons of the currents do,

what the jagged river bottom, its claws

 

does to abrade the torso, the iris,

the thickettish waterweeds and kelp;

ravenous amphipods known to the dead—

Pink clouds through the dirty water.

 

I met a boy leaning over the bridge.

Winter put a slick of vodka on his breath,

encoded its bestiary in the stars.

He was looking hard into the river

 

for the world that didn’t have him in it.

He had no one in particular’s eyes.

I put my hand on his shoulder,

I said—

 

In the old sense, sympathy was material:

a powder rubbed into a cloth or a shirt cuff

or a collar stained with blood,

to heal the wound at distance and by magic.

 

I met a boy leaning over the bridge.

I said—

We waited for the ambulance together.

He had no one in particular’s eyes.

 

 

The body is a door, yes, I think,

but that there is only one room

is too ecstatic a cruelty. Where

they say matrix, they mean womb,

 

pregnant animal, source, mother, but

no being born again; only the unbearable

numbness, after that lesson.

At the end of the beach

 

there is the way back along the beach.

Hard to know the equation by the sum total;

what’s overcome by what outlives it;

hard to prove by the sand

 

the horses were not wild and childless,

that an oyster shell smashed to pieces

in one of their footprints was not planted there,

did not once have something precious within it:

 

a body beflowered with silver chaff,

tinsel of snow, of iridescent glitter,

pulverised pearl, wolfram; archeus,

sintered constellate beast.

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