On Such a Full Sea Are We Now
At the beach house, Mama cooked whole crabs alive.
Through the steam, we watched them slowly seize up
and stiffen like the dead fish that washed ashore
on the day you cut your foot on shattered glass.
When sand stuck to your weeping wound, I couldn’t clean it
saltwater stinging its red lips, widening the pain
inside us. I carried you back, scared of you walking barefoot
through the regurgitation of aluminum cans
and cigarette butts no one told us about.
Everything gleamed: plastic bag jellyfish
pill bottle mother-of-pearl. You were only three
I was thirteen, unable to protect you well enough.
In bed, I still heard the tide hollering at me
and wished the sea would swallow its detritus
wished I could climb out from the pool of heat I sank in
tear off the clothes that clung to my skin like a shell
and run back into the icy water
untouched by man.
At the beach house nine years later, I watch crabs
scuttle among the tall grasses
that leaned with the ripple of the surf.
I pick up a browned paper cup
and an empty candy wrapper
to build you a sandcastle.
I wish you could see how pretty it is now
when the moon pulls the sea like a blanket
over the undisturbed shoreline, where nothing reflects light
except the memory of your eyes in the blue.
Jemma Leigh Roe has poems and artwork published or forthcoming in The Journal, Fugue, Iron Horse Literary Review, Lunch Ticket, Permafrost Magazine, and others. She received a PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures from Princeton University. More of her work can be found at www.jemmaleighroe.com.