Tuesday and Monday’s poem

I’m in NY and days have been packed, but here’s another poem from Poetry Daily, originally published in Carolina Quarterly. I especially like the way the poem uncurls, half-hidden, like memory itself.

Allegory

My mother strokes the sand
toward her with her palm, drawing
the story out, then levels it
back with the edge of her hand.

All the while
a ghost crab, half-hidden
under a canopy of crisped
sargassum, so well-camouflaged

it’s just a blur of movement,
has been sidling in and out
its tunnel, forming identical boulders
of damp sand to stack

at the entrance,
a bulwark. The story
is a stone she collects
from the tideline of the past.

For years it’s arrived
again and again, as if something
draws it back
to her mind, tumbles it,

and returns it to her tongue,
a sparer truth: once she hid
a pill bottle in her pocket,
and when the shop owner’s

back was turned, pulled
a mystery snail off the glass
and dropped it into the vial
of water, snapping down

the lid. When her father
saw it in her tank, he wrapped
her braid around his fist
and wrenched her off her feet.

A new detail brightens
the memory’s
aching chamber. He gave
her aquarium away.

When she loosens her fist
to let fine sugar pour
through the hourglass
of her hand, the crab hunches,

sinking the picks of its legs
in the sand. Its eye bulbs,
lusterless as if dipped in black wax,
fold inward in a cringe.

A mind works this way, in secret,
tirelessly shaping, excavating
a refuge for the tender self. A child
steals the power she longs to have.

What’s a snail’s shell
but a coiled tunnel.
What’s the tough door
but a body building no.

 

 

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