Back to Issue Nineteen.

the edge of childhood

BY S.MARIE LAFATA-CLAY

 

           The island begins small
                      floating atop the surface of a postcard
           opposite the greeting: wish you were here

miniature mountains
           nestled in my palm like stray children
without collar or curfew that huddle after dark

           against the hull of the good old days, 
                      listening to the sound of local fisherman
           cutting nylon lines caught on

too many dead to hoist, appaloosa stars
           stuck in the water like sunken
light bulbs without a switch. To pass time 

           we would chew the scraggle of our hair
                      & think of getting old, make a net
           out of whatever we could steal—

knotting cherry stems with our tongues
           only to become distracted
when we had to link them, mastering

           the art of transformation
                      though I couldn’t stand
           the bitter aftertaste. When we got caught

soaked in moonlight, mouths full of spit
           & necks stiff as wolves
mid-howl, we called the moon a liar

           because you can’t believe a damn thing
                      unless it’s full & even then
           it’s nothing more than the shiner

of a drunk-blind troubadour, belly up & half way
           under-water by midnight
because he knew too much. Ask me no questions

           & I will tell the story of the sleepwalking
                      river that wrapped
           around the valley’s throat, holding hands

with the empty-handed whose names
           are now running water. Time & trespassing
often go hand & hand, break & enter while we sleep, 

           quiet as the Lord’s flashlight
                      in the hands of a search party, 
           Miguel’s Father stiff as an oar, the seam of his uniform

creasing the mountainside. I helped my best friend
           make an inventory of what was lost: 
a closet full of black coats, a magic kit, 

           Miguel, the boy who vanished and became a pallbearer
                      a man grown tired a fisherman
           & the list goes on. This postcard is not so much

a postcard as it is a place to go
           to be alone: I am here walking
over mountains of garbage that litter the edge

           of the sea, listening like a balcony
                      above a condemned theatre. 
           The wind is an invisible chandelier, swooning

like a jealous axe that has yet to catch me
           cheating death, postcard in hand
addressed to Miguel whose empty school desk

           sat in the middle of the classroom
                      like a sun bleached skull, 
           pencils stuck in our fingers like fishing lures

as we tried to catch the right words in the shark
           infested waters of get well cards
that pried our eyes wide open. I didn’t know

           what to say so I drew
                      a map to the edge of childhood, 
           the land that makes strangers of us all.

 

 

S.Marie LaFata-Clay is a PhD student at Western Michigan University, where she teaches creative writing and serves as head editor/poetry editor of Third Coast Magazine. Her work has been featured in The Journal, Pedestal MagazinePuerto Del SolTupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere.

< Previous (Danez Smith)