(Born fish, our lungs grow underwater)
Born fish, our lungs grow underwater.
We must learn to fear drowning, why else
bring children to a beach, in November?
A field trip, to take fingerblurred photographs
collect broken seashells in plastic baggies
our tiny pigeon-heads bobbing.
But you were willing to touch the dead jellyfish
tentacles like blood vessels, you
waded into the water, clothes on, fearless.
I see now, why those sand corpses welcomed you
heavy with mineral
their white, wavetipped bodies.
It’s always the fault of the kidneys
When yours failed you
they floated you back here, buoyant
the blue amniotic sac of the ocean.
(I have sewn you)
I have sewn you,
truthfully. Also in memory
the way we say that memories
are woven. The translations
can vary. But it was
skin, as much as skin
can be anything that
covers our bodies.
I touched you first,
when you were brand new.
Though we remain strangers,
the bacteria of my hands will flourish
on your nameless
(It was your clothes that troubled us)
It was your clothes that troubled us.
The denim jacket. That hat. Surely
they could not go in the trash
but we had no use for them
and in the end we buried all of it,
though it would have been buried
just the same in the landfill,
and with less muscle.
You used to say that cleaning products
were the American Dream. You would
like this place. We trade tips
about what will get the scent out. A bar
of stainless steel, shaped like soap —
curved, like a thigh, or an elbow.
The dishwashing liquid
they used on oil-soaked birds.
A bleach pen.
We used to draw with those
on our jeans, thinking only
to create, not to erase. That’s how
I remember you, when we
were very young. Starchy, rustling
in the auditorium chairs. The white gloves,
old-fashioned even then. Your hands
sweat through them, anyway. And we never did
learn to dance.
They say now that
I am a weaver, but I know
I am the unwinder, the one
who cut the thread.
Of all the things we fill our landfills with,
I would leave behind the rope
of your voice, the telephone cord.
Molly Fels is a writer and medical student from New York City. Her poetry has appeared in Circle Show, Thirteen Ways magazine and has been the recipient of an honorable mention in the William Carlos Williams medical student poetry competition. She is interested in the study and experience of memory.