Trace

by | Aug 15, 2023 | Poetry

A broken sea shell.

a man, he touched me once, and my skin turned
deep blue. my hair shone like light and stood on end.
I don’t think that was ever love.

it flew above my head like a crow and left me
small silvery pieces that I collected and refused
to let go of. I had a box of shells I scooped from the ocean

we made love in, but I realized they were all porous
and carved out. little deaths—pieces of coral chipping
away into nothing. eventually, I returned them to the sea,

or the ground, or perhaps I just threw them away.
I don’t remember. or care? well, maybe I care.

I am touched again and again—touched and
touched. by boy or blue or monster,
or memory. or the monster I’ve made

of memory. by the slim metal
of tweezers. everything I keep and search for
in the corners of my house. the dull

knock of boxes jostling against each other.
I open a book, and find a slim photo
of my once-slim self in its pages. a girl I used to be,

washed under the green light of a dark bar.
blinking at me from the past. like a message.
was I happy then? I can’t remember.

or I don’t care? maybe I care.
I carry her with me. I care.
I carry.


Photo by Laen, used and adapted under CC.

About The Author

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Sara Ryan is the author of I Thought There Would Be More Wolves (University of Alaska Press), as well as the chapbooks Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned (Porkbelly Press) and Excellent Evidence of Human Activity (The Cupboard Pamphlet). In 2018, she won Grist’s Pro Forma Contest and Cutbank‘s Big Sky, Small Prose Contest. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Brevity, Kenyon Review, Diode, EcoTheo, and others. She earned her doctorate from Texas Tech University and is now an assistant professor of English at Virginia Wesleyan University.