Julian Mithra
Winner of the Prospero Prize
Ship Wreck
Captain of the crewless ship
ties the tiller. He’s here to fish. A yellow moon
gutters like spermaceti candles across the water’s surface.

Having no hand with line and no
aim with harpoon, he opens bottles
one by one and hurls them into the ocean.
A hundred bottles of whisky
makes drunkards of the fish til they float, dumb side up.
I’m the slipperiest. I’m fin slick litany.
But three gillfuls of whisky
and I’m sloshed.
Between organs,
he finds a soft place to stick a hook.
He peels back my skin with a boning knife til I’m
naught but fillet and eye.
The floundering fisherman’s too drunk to tame a fire so
raw it is!

The moon hops nervously across the sky,
now on the port, now on the starboard side.
Whisky makes the edges of the boat almost like water,
soft and yellow and forgivable.
Skinless, I’m not me, but he’s Captain.
He tastes of mushrooms earth all that sticks and stays firm.
He tastes of salt, too—sweaty salt, not kelp. I’m licking salt and cackling. So much salt
out of the sea shouldn’t be happening.

Forever later, he lets me drop to the deck, gushing, wet.
He must be drunk. He releases the rudder but sets no course.
With too many stars by which to steer, we veer dizzily. I’m
seasick. Me! the seawench!

The barb’s in deep. While Captain stumbles to the prow,
I hold my breath and push it through.
There’s blood, but not much.
I chew across the planks to the last bottle of liquid amber.
Blearily, I raise the rim to my lips.
First drink drink drink
Then spit spit spit.
Cork the seal.
Lob it like a meteor
burning out a wish
that the bottle will wash up on an unseen shore
and uncorked, whisper