Retrograde and Hippocampus

by Alani Hicks-Bartlett

                                    i.

          Do you remember your injury? The night that you felt the starfish stab of pain in the dark and held, for an instant, the blurred memory of copper against your teeth. Underwater, the algae might have seemed like a caress, like a bandage for your wounds, but do you recall how

the weight and weft of them kept pulling you down?

 

                                    ii.

          Poor brother, it is hard to know what to think when your heart is so full of thunder. It is hard to know what to say when the sea glass seems so cool and smooth but your broken thoughts are still in all those jagged shards that you hoard like dazzling underwater poppies. Like anemones. Like sea anemones. They are so bright, but you, you, you, little one, you too are blank, and clear, and smooth, and you remain this way, empty and unmoored, until suddenly, you remember: This was once a rich kingdom! I had teeth, I had pearls! I had a safe, marble home that the grinding waves broke and crumbled, and that the viscous ocean bottom now swallows and reclaims!... And you turn away from me and from this thin, tired woman who was your mother, while your pulsing tender words and all the sorry spots continue their slow dance of attack and retreat, of attack and retreat, of attack, of retreat.

 

                                    iii.

          Now, dear brother, only the seagrasses offer up a tentative, chary refuge from the current of your loss, from the push and pull of it. They are a buffer, a sieve, a rake. They are a vice for your darkened left-handed thought to latch to, they are a bath for that festering wound that you love to let seep and stare with its glistening eye. All of these eyes here, the fish that cool the sting of the sun with their silvery backs, and this small pile of bones that somewhat slices the current have chosen you.

 

                                    iv.

          Following their lead, you fill your pockets with mud-clotted coins, dark stones, rotting fish, and all the dirty, dying things that were left behind in the drag, in the shift, in the wake, in the slice. There is a breast. There is a home. There is a collar you threw away, the home you traded for old poisoned nails that scrape and stab. These rusted goods, these mossy facts and the brine, brine, brine that blunts and binds them are your one true anchor.

About the Author

Alani Rosa Hicks-Bartlett is a writer and translator who lived in the SF Bay Area but now enjoys the Autumn foliage of the East Coast, where she finds herself increasingly in a nudiustertian mode. Her recent work has appeared in The Stillwater Review, IthacaLit, Gathering Storm, Broad River Review, The Fourth River, and Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, and Translation, among others. Her favorite poets are F.Petrarch, G.Brooks, S.Plath, R.Castellanos, and C.Rankine (and many, many more), and she is currently working a collection of villanelles.