Sara Kaplan-Cunningham's poems appear in The Sea Letter, Prometheus Dreaming,
and elsewhere. She is a senior at Emory University studying creative writing.
On each of the eleven seats
reserved for her children, there are two leaves:
one yellow, one red. I'm the only grandchild
who sees the body, one side of her neck
caved in, like a bruised apple.
We stand behind our parents,
who watch their mother
lowered under the grass. I don't feel
anything, until my father stands up and empties
my hands of his shoulders.
I know that I cannot remember, and yet
I remember. The metal table sprawled beneath
me like a field, showing my body to the sky's open plane.
There was a smell—later, his smell—of iron and skin
instilled with sweat. Then, I was spilled
as a glass might spill and, emptied,
roll along the flat earth. Though, I slept.
Though, my body did not move.
No one knows we're here,
standing together, thigh-deep in the black water & far enough
apart that our lofted arms don't touch. You're the first
to be swallowed, this time. You emerge, spit
saltwater at my chest, & I fall back
as if wounded, let my legs float up. The waves
lick my sunburned shoulders and calves. I feel
your elbow kiss my collar bone, but don't turn my head
to look at you. We float on our backs, your hand
on my forehead. Desperation sounds like coming
up for air. I want you to watch me
hold my breath. Hold yours.
My parents have wandered off
in search of peaches.
I wait for them, leaning against a pole
across from the harbor.
Around me, people surge
in rhythm with one another.
A mother in the crowd offers her young son
a piece of pear. She holds it between her
fingers, close to his face. The boy takes
the fruit and the skin collapses
into his small mouth, as if
its blossomed body
has been waiting for someone.
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