The Body is Water and Water Has Origins

by Han VanderHart

I can trace my sisters and I back to Nathaniel Starbuck and Mary Coffin
standing together in the Nantucket rain
having left the rain in England

concealed in their parents’ bodies: Tristram and Dionis
Edward and Katharine

there are days, whether in the house or not, where I find myself
standing in the rain, drops marking my shoes and my face

there are hunting days when barbed tools appear in my hand
and the deck rolls slick and dark
and I am looking for that which I cannot find

and there are days I carry objects tenderly, having kept them from mildew
only to place them in wooden boxes I then hammer shut

if we were having dinner together I might tell you that my mother’s name
Ware is from weir and more water
and that it sounds like beware

my mother’s family dammed the river and trapped the fish so often
it became their name
wet feet and boots and nets of fish became them
and my grandfather lived on the lip of the bay until death

mistrustful of boats, I nest in their hollows and only stand
at the water’s edge
but the rain follows like a pet, curling my hair
in Carolina

somewhere a blue whale leaps:
a parenthesis above water

and if I am quiet and listen inside myself
I hear the hammering of pine boxes


Han VanderHart is a genderqueer Southern writer living in Durham, North Carolina. They have poetry and essays published in The Boston Globe, Kenyon Review, The American Poetry Review, The Rumpus, AGNI and elsewhere. Han hosts Of Poetry podcast, edits Moist Poetry Journal and reviews at EcoTheo Review, co-publishes River River Books with Amorak Huey, and is the author of the poetry collection What Pecan Light (Bull City Press, 2021).

Photo by Lavi Perchik

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