Poem by Ricia Anne Chansky

October 2018


had told us not
to swim in the ocean
for six months
after the hurricane.
We didn’t know
if this advice was science
or simply chisme
spread by frightened people.
Last night we returned
to our backyard beach
anyway: sat together
on a soft slope watching
the moon look down on us,
listening to waves lick
the shore. It was even
romantic, until I dug my fingers
deep into the sands
and touched something hard.
At last, I thought, a perfect
conch shell. I wanted to find one
for so long that I even saw
pearlescent edges gleaming
for a moment. But
what I revealed was only bone—
a vertebra so large
that it could not fit
in one hand. There were
I dug them
from the earth like treasures,
placing bone on top
of naked bone. Finally
baring a femur
as long as my body. It was
too great to lift and so I left
it in the ground—


Ricia Anne Chansky is a professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. She is editor of the scholarly journal a/b: Auto/Biography Studies and of the new Routledge Auto/Biography Studies book series. She is currently working on an oral history as social justice project, recording narratives of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico under the auspices of the Voice of Witness program and in correlation with the Humanities Action Lab.