Now, my thirtieth year
a possibility, phantom body of a bony girl,
passage through rooms like evolving
doors or landscapes, shrunken
Push against memories
like softening hymens.
Persistence of my childish lament or curse
of my guilt, early, like the church.
This ability to smell out rain.
To remember a year when
bullfrogs warned in the grass,
but not the warnings
themselves, no, never those.
A day when I held back
my head in laughter & it rained through wet leaves.
That night when something was
killed. Those other nights when
something was dead.
Or dying, then I danced
on the graves of poems never read,
I wanted to say more. Growing older
before mirrors. Growing younger
one August, by the sea.
Roughening & smoothing
my bones according to the
rhythm, according to the need
for sharp reminders.
Dinner with my inexplicable sister, saying,
“We are getting old.”
School nights we turned thin
pages, current failed us & the clearness
made of a mother by candlelight,
the historical lessons, always
very English & sad.
Tropical night & the milling
wind beneath a breadfruit tree,
when all our silences, a whole
family of them, the dismal one,
the dreadful one, the one I carry.
Too early for the triumph
of thirty, to count these years
backwards or sideways,
the way the desperate do, holding
their heads back in laughter, drinking rain
through wet leaves.
Here is the afternoon rain that comes,
the water Olympiad in the sky, the
recreational flash of lightning.
I watch Aquarius pour what is valuable
onto the botoxed face of the earth,
wonder what will become of Memory,
that beached mermaid who sits on my porch,
angling in the street for her dinner.
I interrogate the space of a window,
looking for her & find her gone.
She has swum on down the flooding road
no doubt, gone to find her way amidst
the lively debris of the games.
I sit before a vanity fragile as coral
bones, wash myself in the mirror’s silver-
cold basin. Alas, I am not the fairest.
The mythical creature has relieved me.
If I am too young for grief, then what
is this tender moment, what are these
dry, oceanic longings, these bottom-
Ah, Memory, she was fairest, Memory,
she was perfect, sprightly & not at all
promiscuous as she would appear;
no decorative object, she had her brass,
like money, lovely from head to tail,
& supposedly changeable.
Tonight, I am presented with the thunder
of memories, I am gifted with the angler
fish’s enraged jaw. I extract each
razor-sharp tooth of despair, lay all crowns
before me, like jewels, on the nautical
Tablecloth. This quiet night unfurls,
billows around me like a sail I pause
& listen for the mermaid: maybe she is
desperate; maybe she is hungry;
perhaps she will return.
Too young for grief, but I know we return
to places that have fed us before, the
generous water spots of our memory,
our most graceful tackles & the gliding,
johnboat days of our forgetting.
We return to the houses we shared
with unknown poets, hours when we
dined, to the watery tournaments of
bait & switch, the line that saved us,
the love that sank us.
Now, the rain gasps, pauses. I hear
the mermaid struggle through waters.
The moon, that night-fisherman,
watches her return.
Summer Edward was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago and currently lives in Philadelphia. Her poems and art have appeared in literary magazines such as BIM: Arts for the 21st Century, the Columbia Review, tongues of the ocean, and Philadelphia Stories. She holds a master’s degree in reading, writing, and literacy from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the founder and managing editor of Anansesem, the Caribbean children’s literature e-zine, and a 2012 Cropper Foundation Caribbean Creative Writers Workshop participant.