—FL, our nation’s oldest city
When my father saw her sunbathing
her lean body that would one day
push me from it, over and over,
maybe he knew in an instant
his bohemian life had ended.
Knew from the string-tied birds
fastened around her figure,
her wide hands, two starfish holding
Helter Skelter, sand in the creases.
Perhaps the tide opened him,
deep in that place that would later shut down
just before my ninth birthday.
My mother bloomed like plankton and saw
her whole future hanging on his hanker-chief stick.
The way she would one day rest on his back,
and be carried away from her own soul.
He might have tossed his black hair just right
to catch the sunlight and smile the way I remember—
She may have mistaked him
with the indigo depth in the quiet distance
and agreed to a date.
Later that week her nerves spilled food on him.
A waterfront seafood place anchored
with rusted steel and barnacles.
Her oval tray and narrow arms never large enough.
A decade later he would spill food on himself,
nightly anchored by a furrowed brow and fermented silence.
Maybe when he walked down that beach
searching for seagulls and sunsets,
he could have considered
the many invertebrates beneath his feet,
the ones not yet to shore.
The krill swarm he would leave behind
when the dividing tide came to swallow him up.
Instead they drove off.
The backseat filled with my father’s
bow and arrows, a deck of cards
those things that would take up all the space.
My mother without bones
folded like a jellyfish to his side.
Waiting, as we all would,
for the humpback’s song—
for another lagoon.
Jennifer Battisti, a Las Vegas native, studies creative writing at Nevada State College. Her work has been anthologized in Legs of Tumbleweed, Wings of Lace and Where We Live, a project to benefit the survivors of the October 1st tragedy, and is forthcoming in The Good Fight. Her writing has appeared in the Desert Companion, Citron Review, Minerva Rising and elsewhere. In 2016 Nevada Public Radio interviewed her about her poetry. Her first chapbook, Echo Bay (Tolsun Books), was released in 2018. She is the recipient of the Helen Stewart Poetry Prize. She is the co-director and a teaching artist for the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in Clark County.