Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"The SS American Star" by Glenn Shaheen, from Predatory

THE SS AMERICAN STAR by Glenn Shaheen, from Predatory

Somewhere a house in which a thousand dreams
were born burns to the ground. The family is inside
and dies. Or they're away
at dinner, returning to embers. The point is, many
of those dreams involved this house, its rooms, all the love
that could flood its halls. Now,
ash. Actually, we should start

smaller. Somewhere a treehouse in which ten dreams
were born burns to the ground.

                        Or a woman enters a room
in the middle of a lecture and everybody turns
to see her, expecting to be astonished. A sea of heads
in one smooth wave.

But she is nobody special. She has recently
had her heart broken. Who hasn't? This is not
                        Years ago, the SS American Star

was one of the premiere cruise ships in the world.
Thousands of people rode her all over the Atlantic,
the Pacific. Celebrities. Lottery winners.

Couples blowing some of their savings. Their love
in winded tatters. Or newlyweds. Their lives
smooth glass. And singles. There was much sex and dance.
Many hoped to book

a room on the ship one day. But the ship fell apart. Bit by bit. The paint
went, and pipes. The bones couldn't hold
the skin. Passengers stopped. The ship began to haul cold

freight. Metals. Oil. Eventually, a storm wrecked
the ship at Fuertaventura, off the coast of Africa,
in shallow waters. It broke in half, two hundred yards
from shore. And it still sits, rusted, gutted of former thoughts
and the buzz of ghosts, just
off shore. The townspeople ignore it. In Arkansas,

a high school social studies teacher explains to her students that everything
they adore in life has been earned by military

action. Some amount of flame and metal has bought
all the knick knacks and meals they need

for everyday living. They realize
that this is a source for intense pride. All thirty kids breathe in
at once. This creates the smallest fluctuation
in the pressure of the classroom
killing millions of tiny germs and bacteria all housed
in the hot crevices
of their skin, invisible to the naked eye.

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