Wading to Pelican Island

by Lizzy Ke Polishan

over a tangled ruin of rubber, I bend to tie her shoes.
               we wade through standing water, the sky a hanging garden

               about to open and water itself. a snake confusing
a path around a rock / a kingfisher dead on the faraway shore.

she hitches up her skirt over dark jelly, and a galaxy
               of tadpoles swirls toward damp light. when the wind flickers,

               when all the elements are magnified, I want to leave,
but she keeps going out, toward the body

of the bird she wants to bury, a ribbon of seaweed clinging
               like a discarded letter to her calf. my ruined shoes / and

something forgotten in my pocket—an orange softened in time. I rotate
               the globe of its ripe weight. when I look up,

               she is far away, half her body lost underwater. her voice
is a ghost, whistling with wind over patchy rocks.

I need her to stop. I need a rowboat. I need something sacred
               with a rope. but she keeps getting farther away

               until her head is something I can pinch between two fingers,
and I am losing my ability to stand, or see, or hear

anything but the pound of water on water, the roar of wind against wind.


Lizzy Ke Polishan is the author of the poetry collection A Little Book of Blooms (2020) and the recipient of the Eleanor B North Poetry Award (2017). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rhino, PRISM International, and Tipton Poetry Journal, among others. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband.

Image: Stephen Pedersen

Image description: white birds gathered on gray water.