The Oracle Can Only Promise Endurance
You push the boat from the sandbar,
flames licking at the lapping waves.
You will row until your arms no longer feel sore.
You will row until your arms no longer feel.
Until your open wounds crust in the salt air. Remember:
the ocean heals whatever it doesn’t kill.
You will know survival when your scars
spell sacred words
in a language you alone can speak.
You will know survival when you arrive,
carrying the dead on your tongue.
You will know survival when you no longer
remember the lines
that creased your mother’s face.
When the bright and brilliant sky
from one horizon to another
separates the old heart from the new,
when sleep takes you like an ambush. You will arrive
conquered in an unconquered land.
You will know survival because
you are here, and
there is nothing else to know
but the scent of your own skin.
Ben Weakley is a U.S. Army veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His first collection of poetry, HEAT + PRESSURE was published by Middle West Press in 2022. His work appears in Sequestrum, Cutleaf Journal, and Wrath-Bearing Tree, among others. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee with his wife, two teenage children, and a well-meaning, but poorly-behaved hound-dog named Camo. Find him at https://jbenweakley.com