M.K. Foster

Sandy Island Disappears from the World Atlas as You Speak to Your Father

from the fever in your sleeping body, crossing yourself again and again as you turn away from me in the dark, as I say tell me what’s wrong, your shape marbled cold and soft in the damp light from the streets below, light enough for me to see the swallows tattooed along your ribs, the stars across your neck, the anchor at your back, the stories of the life you built at sea, stories that you wanted to tell him by showing him, stories stretched and shivering white as you pray into the mattress, twist the sheets into knots the size of fists, forgive me for not reaching you in time, I’ll row harder next time, I promise. You were seven, you once said to me, and he saved you when you fell out of the boat. You were seventeen, and you couldn’t warm him fast enough after you pulled him from the fishing lake behind your house the winter he said if you consecrate yourself to the water, the earth will never let you forget it. And again, you turn away, pray Caspian Arabian Indian Mediterranean, tell me how they removed an island from the South Pacific maps for never having been an island, only a dream, only ink, only story across void blue and bare and barren, only icon. And when I touch you, trace the swallows as through window panes, ask if I can turn the light on, you tell me please don’t, call out to him through the black, please, if you wake the storm, neither of us will ever find our way home.

M. K. Foster is an MFA candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she teaches academic and creative writing. Her poetry won the 2013 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, selected by Stanley Plumly, has been recognized with an Academy of American Poets Prize, and has appeared or is forthcoming in H.O.W. Journal, The Journal, Radar Poetry, and elsewhere.