1856 c/o Michael Ray

If his lips are silent he chatters with his fingertips – Freud

There is no sea in Příbor,
so he imagines it
and thinks not of his mother
staring at the dark line where a skydiver
and water once conflated,
but of the litmus grey lace,
the pleated edge of a girl’s skirt opening
and closing as it flutters
trapped in her car door like the ruched foot
of the snail balanced
on a dock leaf;
the horn of its shell it seems,
brazenly peeled up,
the source of that criss-cross labial gleam.
This is how the hem looks to him
as he sits on the sea wall
whether he should be in such a spell.
And as his fingers
imagine circling the petals
in the complex lace
he feels the surfacing,
and with it
the fear,
the fear of losing that rush,
and also of it growing out of control
like the peeled-back
rawness when a boy of twelve,
walking home,
discovered on the road discarded magic.
And that night
as the boy pulled
from underneath his mattress,
a creased girl
called Veronique stepping
from a grey lace dress,
he took for the first time, the test.