A mad sea captain lives in my head.
He stumps around on a wooden leg.
The hook he has for a hand he raps
against the inside of my skull.
He rails at the world like a preacher,
and curses like cheap gin,
shakes his crusty fist and shouts
red-faced orders that catch in his throat
all barnacled with suspicion.
Sometimes, over the salty roar of
his threats and foam-flecked accusations,
I can't hear
what you say.

I try to ignore him.
I try to dream of sailing a sun-drunk sea:
imagine, hop over the horizon
to a sweet and secret island
that rises from the ocean like the curve of a woman's body,
there to anchor in a cool, safe harbor.
But at a word, or a gesture, or a glance,
or a glass-eyed silence,
he thumps back on deck, howling and pointing.
I find myself perched
on that madman's high and narrow plank
and I get dizzy when I look down
into the wet mouth of the sea.

This grizzled old captain who
lives in my head
clambers down my spine
lashes himself to my gut
stabs with his harpoon
til hope spouts black blood.
He won't let go, even as the rattled contraption sinks,
but thunders hoarse commands

until you turn
and swim away.