Chicken Little by Sarah Marquez

inspired by Sula by Toni Morrison

A splash of white sun 
illuminates the fisherman 
hauling the drowned boy 
up the side of the skiff, 
knickers ballooned, body 
cold as midnight. 

How he met the lake bottom 
is a secret, a happy accident. 
Like the butterflies between 
the flowers weeping over his 
grave, the smile still on his face. 

Happiness rests inside him, 
along with a wriggle of worms, 
& a severed fishing line.


He played with the older girls 
below the sky, up high in a tree. 
His last memory– fat grasshoppers 
in the reeds, their dancing charging 
the sharp hairs on the backs of tiny 
legs, electrifying the summer air. 

One moment, he was seeing yellow 
sparks flashing. Then blue everywhere. 
In his ears, bells chimed goodnight baby

The girls watched while he sank 
& water darkened, closed over 
the place he fell in. Then they ran, 
afraid to be blamed for it, not going 
in after him. 

But he was not their responsibility. 
Not their brother. A village boy.
Wasn’t it enough that they played 
with him, taught him how to climb 
all the way up to the cathedral of leaves 
& light?


Three days he stayed underwater, 
in the murkiness, drinking his fill 
of fish scales floating to the surface, 
till it was time to rise, be recognized 
as lost & found. 

People stared at the soulless shell 
in the fisherman’s hands, at death 
staring back at them. They asked, 
who is the boy’s mama? No voice 
answered, but they all saw her stumble 
out of the crowd, wine bottle in hand 
& soft tinkling bells dangling at her wrist. 

She did not claim him, but her mouth flew 
open. A swarm of gnats took the place 
of her words in the wind.

Note: this poem borrows language from Sula

Sarah is an MA candidate at Southern New Hampshire University. She has work in Marías at Sampaguitas and MID-HEAVEN REVIEW as well as work forthcoming in Amethyst Review. When she is not writing, she can be found reading, sipping coffee, or tweeting @Sarahmarissa338.

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