Timothy Donnelly

I have made myself at home in this crumbling
     world of empire, adhering to it like a shipworm
pioneer to the wooden belly of a vessel up to something
     questionable no doubt. The voyages of humanity

always have to do with money, and by voyages
     I mean movement of any sort. Even our most poetic conversations
fall like veiled sales pitches; all our sales pitches play
     like conversations with our armpit: greed, brutality, fear;

ignorance and so forth. The point is to trick
     one another into feeding on whatever makes us feel
hungry all the time. The mollusk’s larvae will affix
     themselves to any wood submerged in sea water and there

they grow their long, pale, vermicular bodies and the tiny
     helmet-like shells they use to bore the tunnels
they live their lives out in, cultivating in their gills bacteria 
     whose enzymes break wood down into a digestible substrate.
Ships, riddled, sank. England, however, rich in copper,
     sheathed her hulls with it to halt the shipworm’s progress,
and as a bonus, the metal reduced the fleet’s resistance in water—
     leaving it not only worm-safe, but faster, sleeker, dominant, unstoppable.