Laura-Gray Street

Tidewater
by Laura-Gray Street

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.

Laura-Gray StreetLaura-Gray Street is the author of Pigment and Fume (Salmon Poetry) and Shift Work (Red Bird Chapbooks) and co-editor of The Ecopoetry Anthology (Trinity University Press) and A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia (University of Georgia Press). Her work has been published in The Colorado Review, Poet Lore, Terrain.org, Poetry Daily, Gargoyle, Shenandoah, Blackbird, The Notre Dame Review, and elsewhere. Street directs the undergraduate Creative Writing and Visiting Writers Series Program and edits the MFA’s literary journal Revolute at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia. More at www.lauragraystreet.com

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