by Christell Roach
The picture is still fresh in my mind, absent of oil marks.
She clasped the cord in her mouth and one by one she spoke beads.
She tongued her grandfathers’ hands around a silk string path home.
She tonged a path of currents, breaststrokes – here to Turk’s island.
She tonged the paddle across his back, and the raft he made
free-wood (Ishmael lay between the breasts-
strokes of three gals).
She tonged him a boat, curved her tongue like a buoy, re-watched
him sail her (she sighs hurricanes while she does this), to taste.
She tonged a heart that only beat inside her mouth, tonged home
into the hollow of a coconut, her saliva
was an ocean of sugar water, the beads were paddles.
She tonged me a shack turned raft turned ocean trinket for wrists.
I watched her hold this bracelet in her mouth and fill it
with letters that spelled my name: she translated them two
beads at a time, divorced or married they all shared stories.
It has my name spelled out in beads, unlike colors, shapes too.
It has my name spelled in beads it has, our name spelled in beads.
I made this bracelet hoping that no one would notice
that I lost her cant, the bridge back all our memories.
I tried to remake the bracelet but I did not know
To correctly seal a bracelet I must learn the speech.
I knew her word six feet deep into the sea of her age.
her light-rimmed frame, canoe-colored skin – everything I knew
her Abaco cheeks, high enough to hide the French valley
her land leaves, in a leaf sugar jar – everything I knew.
her life string of beads, little capsules, everything I knew.
bracelet – this storage facility of an essence – lost
at such an early age; I was not ready for the beads.
I was not gentle and her voice got lost, I, young at sea.
I was only just learning to swim in, the loop & knots.
I remember the golden paddle she made for me – don’t
remember when it was swallowed (bones, lips, voice years and all).
She rests, no tongue, lips sealing Caribbean and his sea,
while I crooked teeth trying to bite into semantics.
Author Biography: Christell is a young writer currently pursuing her
interests in verse, language, and culture as a freshman at Columbia
College Chicago. Christell’s sole desire is to move her readers with her
words, and she has an intellectual curiosity that holds her accountable
for her understanding of her identity.