Derek Graf

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Reciting Richard III at 25 knots
After Tony Hoagland

At this speed, Florida
is just a figure,
a crooked sign between gulfs and oceans

no longer than the plastic straw
of my brother’s Long Island Iced Tea.
By the third night of the cruise

I would estimate the differences
between myself and my only sibling
are roughly the same as the costs

of being duty-bound or Duty Free,
so I try to sit back on the polyester straps
of the beach chairs by the pool,

a little sad, a little drunk and nauseated.
I remember, as a lazy
living room kind of kid,

turning on the television to watch
pirates who travel by tides and
invade islands so bright and so green

they implied unending celebrations
and beautiful things,
but now my face burns

due to weak sun lotion
and I search for revealing tan lines,
every minute looking up from my play

where a murderer seduces a widow with verses
better than anything
I could write myself,

begging for forgiveness, begging
to slip a ring over her finger, as
proof that the devil exists.

Imagine dying and then coming back,
waiting for your words to be spoken again
after four-hundred years.

Imagine your life like a scene so staged,
lines so clichéd
you could write for a lifetime

and always arrive at boredom,
until you’re completely forgotten,
like a mirror hit with a fist.

Better to be a soliloquy than a chorus.
An evil, lame, crippled duke
living for revenge.

Better to admire your shadow
as dogs bark in your face,
to cut the tight bonds of family ties,

to see ghosts
in the dead blue of midnight.
What a surprise it would be

to hear anyone on this ship
start up like an actor,
Give me another horse! Bind up my wounds!
Have mercy, Jesu!—Soft, I did but dream.


Derek Graf was born and raised in Tampa. In August he will begin studying for his MFA degree at Oklahoma State University. His poems have been featured in Blast Furnace Press, Poydras Review, Sphere Literary Magazine, and are forthcoming in Emerge Literary Journal, Green Blotter Literary Magazine, and Prompt Literary Magazine, among other journals.