“Becoming an Island” by Tony Brusate

Tony Brusate


Whole days evaporate. Her body
turns to sand. She could be an island beach,
her bedsheets a briny foam upon her shores.
The men of the island stand waist deep casting
their hand-tied nets toward the surf. Women on shore
sort baskets for fish. Dark naked children scamper
through the breaking waves laughing and swinging sticks.
There is no too quiet house, no dog
coming upstairs to lick her face, to see she’s still alive.
And later, no children or husband returning
from school or work, puzzled
by this, her fourth whole day in bed.
Sadder and sadder. The grains shift within her.
Can’t her family understand if they try to lift her
she will pour through their hands?
The island men pull waterlogged ropes
dragging their nets through the surf. Again and again
they reel in only seaweed, they stir up only sand.
They stare at the empty nets. They speak
in a language she would not understand but for its sorrow:
What curse is this the Gods have wrought?
How will we survive such failing take?
Doleful, the women stack the empty baskets
and start up trails toward the dark jungle.
The children grow quiet and apprehensive.
She cannot help them nor help them understand.
Outside her shuttered window, the heavy world
remains, sunlight glistening on so many waves.

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006
Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention


Tony Brusate: “‘Becoming an Island’ started with the word briny, played during a game of Scrabble while attending the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Banner, Wyoming. Special thanks to Poets & Writers magazine and the Kentucky Arts Council for helping me get to Jentel and to the good folks out there who help make art happen.”

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