My mother crouches at the end of the pier
with a serrated knife, cutting into the flesh
of a stingray my cousin gigged by bow
and arrow from a johnboat. She dissects it
to show us the wonders of anatomy, feed us
with rich maps. She opens the dorsal skin
like refrigerator French doors, the kind
we can’t afford, and finds a mirror trick:
stingray replayed in miniature. My mother
eases the fetus from the fishy womb, lifts it
so we can see translucent wings creased like
tissue paper; barbed tail thin as a broom straw.
Its pin-prick eyes pull us out of our itches.
Later, she tucks our brackish pet into the deep
freezer. It shrinks behind ice trays, economy boxes
of Popsicles, blocks of ground beef. Summer
by summer the cottage empties and fills. Sand
in the sheets, black snakes wound in the rafters.
Slam of screen doors. Pine-tag carpeted path,
and, beyond, bright glints of bay. The pulse
of memory. Inevitably, someone rediscovers
the stingray fetus, excavates it for brief display.
We pause—snapping beans into plastic bowls,
setting crab pots, thumbing library paperbacks
on the bed—and collect in the kitchen to recount
my mother at the pier’s end, young ones gaping
around her like seagulls, the gutted stingray
we’d cooked that evening and eaten because
her flesh was tender and sweet, and nothing
should go to waste because in the end all of it
goes to waste, and always we finish with this
frozen remnant, unborn, puckered to a kiss
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 3.
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