The Weight of a Man’s Head–Terry Ann Thaxton

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–after Julia Margaret Cameron’s “King Arthur Wounded Lying in the Barge”

From the sea, the rumor of sunlight lifts, and my arms vanish beneath his wounded head. Perhaps his mind floats back toward his childhood, toward his mother’s hands, his head on her belly. Perhaps his mind sinks back to the time before we fell to the floor, that summer when I became a vine with legs and tongue. His mouth, always desperate for a woman’s purse or a world he could dismantle. Once he told me to be ashamed of that summer. Instead I puffed on the scent of his name lit by a blackbird’s wing.

History tumbles behind us, and now, the sea drags us forward in this boat, faint and lost between a child’s hand-drawn moon and smoke from my arm which, now, no longer seems to exist. This boat is his lid-less coffin. I listen to velvet tucked between the tragedy of his sword and the sea: a battered mirror that waits for his body. If only my arms would wake, I could lift his metaled face, unravel the past still trapped in my hair, and push him off this boat—both of my arms, in mourning, in celebration, both of them burning lace.


Terry Ann Thaxton has three collections of poetry: Getaway Girl, The Terrible Wife, and Mud Song (winner of the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize), as well as a textbook, Creative Writing in the Community: A Guide. She has also published in Connecticut Review, Defunct, Gulf Coast, and other journals. She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida, where she also directs the MFA program.

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