Back to Issue Nineteen.

the edge of childhood



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.

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