Elizabeth Wager

I've often wondered what it feels like to drown—
water closing like a healing wound over my head
as I sink to deep, bruise-dark sleep. I almost tried
it, last week. Waded out up to my waist.

Mr. and Mrs. Howell found me standing there,
salt water wicking the cuffs of my shirtsleeves,
told me to stop horsing around.

So now, I come to the beach before anyone
else is awake. As Emerson said, if a man
would be alone, let him look at the stars

Today, Cassiopeia is still in the sky, hanging
by a pale thread off to the northeast, daylight
seeping into the edges of purple dawn.
I bring my copy of Nature, now bloated

to salt-stained arthritis, and start to read
as the sun spills the horizon. It hurts like hell
to turn the pages. Yesterday, I sliced my palm

wide open while splitting bamboo for Ginger's
new armoire. Had to stitch it up myself with thread
from Mary Ann's sewing kit. Third time this month.

I measure time in scars, now—my hands a calendar,
a map, like charts of fading constellations.
I have become my own fortune-teller, reading
cross-hatched skin like an atlas, promising

myself long life, intelligence, wealth, love, home.
Promises that now echo into these endless waves,
stuttering to silence against such lonely shores.

Elizabeth Wager (she/her/hers) lives and works in Rochester NY, where she write poems on her work breaks, watches British mysteries on Sunday afternoons, and takes pride in her eclectic assortment of houseplants. Her work has appeared in Yellow Chair Review, Able Muse, Cathexis Northwest Press, and The Allegheny Review. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Southern Connecticut State University.

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