“The dog is dead.” Your mother stands at the start
of the aisle, hand to ear, eyes traversing
the bleachers’ hurrahs. The sea lions raise
flippers in response. It is too soon to tell
who calls, who denies, who decides
to bury the ash, but you are twelve & trying
to stop crying in public, so you don’t
turn your head from the pool’s edge,
where shade stops & light bounces
off a sea lion’s whirligig. Call it
mindfulness or luck, how he knows & won’t
remember years later when you bring it up
behind the pawn shop on 14th & Fowler,
car idling, sunshine knitting your lashes
& the catfish rotting two parking spaces
beyond. Behind you, your brother retches
on his socks while you twirl napkins, scrape
the tar swirled in the rococo of his spoon’s
stem. The precision of your tenderness.
You didn’t have to look
at the aerial image a friend left
in your inbox—sea lion enclosure
smallest in the succession of Boeing 747,
football field, Walmart parking lot—to know
a fortune, like knowledge, can be stolen.
Curls smarting your cheeks, thighs stuck to your seat,
you believe. You wear memory like a thief.
What your gaze evades resounds around you.
Jessica Guzman is the author of Adelante (Switchback Books, 2020), selected by Patricia Smith as winner of the 2019 Gatewood Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Shenandoah, 32 Poems, West Branch Wired, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere. She teaches at Widener University and lives in Philadelphia.
Award-winning photographer Natalie Christensen focuses on ordinary settings, seeking the sublime. She deconstructs to color fields, geometry and shadow. Christensen has exhibited in U.S. and international venues. She was a UAE Embassy culture tour delegate, an Artist-in-Residence at Chateau d’Orquevaux, France, and Setanta Books, London, published 007 – Natalie Christensen. She has work in permanent collections and her photography has been featured in many noted fine art publications.
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