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
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.