My mother strokes the sandtoward her with her palm, drawingthe story out, then levels itback with the edge of her hand.All the whilea ghost crab, half-hiddenunder a canopy of crispedsargassum, so well-camouflagedit's just a blur of movement,has been sidling in and outits tunnel, forming identical bouldersof damp sand to stackat the entrance,a bulwark. The storyis a stone she collectsfrom the tideline of the past.For years it's arrivedagain and again, as if somethingdraws it backto her mind, tumbles it,and returns it to her tongue,a sparer truth: once she hida pill bottle in her pocket,and when the shop owner'sback was turned, pulleda mystery snail off the glassand dropped it into the vialof water, snapping downthe lid. When her fathersaw it in her tank, he wrappedher braid around his fistand wrenched her off her feet.A new detail brightensthe memory'saching chamber. He gaveher aquarium away.When she loosens her fistto let fine sugar pourthrough the hourglassof her hand, the crab hunches,sinking the picks of its legsin the sand. Its eye bulbs,lusterless as if dipped in black wax,fold inward in a cringe.A mind works this way, in secret,tirelessly shaping, excavatinga refuge for the tender self. A childsteals the power she longs to have.What's a snail's shellbut a coiled tunnel.What's the tough doorbut a body building no.
Copyright © 2018 by Karen Holmberg
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Karen Holmberg is the author of two previous poetry collections. Her second book, Axis Mundi (BkMk Press), was named one of the top ten poetry titles of 2013 by Slate Magazine. Her poems and nonfiction have been published in such journals as Black Warrior Review, New England Review, Poetry East, New Madrid, and At Length, among others. She teaches in the MFA Program in Poetry at Oregon State University.
The Carolina Quarterly publishes a variety of poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and artwork twice a year and is distributed to readers locally and to individual subscribers, public and university libraries, and bookstores in the United States and worldwide. Back issues are sold throughout the year. Free online access to the full-text of our current and back issues is available through the academic databases, EBSCO and ProQuest.
The Carolina Quarterly has been publishing established and emergent writers for 65 years. Recent issues have featured the works of Lauri Anderson, James Gordon Bennett, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Sean Bishop, Nicole Terez Dutton, Aaron Gwyn, K.A. Hays, Caitlin Horrocks, Stuart Nadler, Ben Purkert, Valerie Sayers, Ken Taylor, Matthew Volmer, G.C. Waldrep, Jerald Walker, and more. Pieces published in The Carolina Quarterly have appeared in New Stories from the South, Best of the South, Poetry Daily, O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prizes, and Best American Short Stories.