I am permitted to hear
the pearl on my dresser.
She speaks to me
in the parlance of pain.
I keep her
in my shallow pocket
and sleep with her
clasped between my hands.
The wake of my boat
unravels down the byways,
and all day I pick
the white pith of my thumbs
watching ice melt
beneath the overpasses
and spraying my bestiary
in orange paint
along their dripping walls.
Sometimes the boat
is flanked by swimmers
trying to catch up.
They raise their heads to breathe
and dip them down again.
They raise their heads to speak
and I can see their loved ones’
precious objects
strung around their necks
on chains.
One was still teething
as he clung to an oar
while I glowered down at him.
I lift my simple
dust-covered cinderblock
over my head
then let it fall
then pull the body up.
We are passing through the fens.
His lips are trembling.
His shamelessness emboldened
by the robe I wrap him in.
His hair is wet.
I take his rings.
His breath flowering
timelessly behind us
in the frozen morning air.