White moths whore about the privet
           of hot October as cirrus clouds rivet tails
into a venous blue sky and I try to hide

my limp until I can slip inside my house,
           grunt onto the couch, strip off my pants
and boxers to rip the gauze and tape

from the back of my leg. There, the boil
           has come to a head, leaks pus and
blood across my scorched earth of thigh.

I am too young for this corruption
           of skin, last Sunday’s pustule grown
to Tuesday’s carbuncular break and burn.

I should be at the water, paddling into a pulse,
           trimming combers at Sawyer’s Beach.
My chest is still thick, my neck still thin.

And yet, I’m glad to be in out of the sun,
           the surf, bolted in the shadows of my den
as old man afternoons begin barreling in,

watching through a window as the sun slumps
           upon the garden where a neighbor kneels
to cut the crowns from columbines.

Matt W. Miller is the recipient of poetry fellowships from Stanford University and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is author of Club Icarus, winner of the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, and Cameo Diner: Poems. His third collection, The Wounded for the Water, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry (2018).