Translations: Meryl DePasquale and Molly Sutton Kiefer
As part of our ongoing
series, two poets exchange work and create interpretations of each other's
Sutton Kiefer to DePasquale
The Cape by Molly Sutton Kiefer
mother told me I would call it beach
that endless search of nicks in the
wanted a fine collection of shells
color of welts, like the glass jar full
she kept in the master bathroom.
count them in my palm, fertile plenty.
in the clefts left by slow waves,
find chips of bone-white, the stuff
picked over by gulls
and salted wanderers.
spotted it first, the black hump
a distorted helmet, and nudged it over,
ten legs spindling out. Already dead and fetid,
the prize, the sand dollar I desired,
of a puzzle, but its armored foil,
the horseshoe crab. This living
have tumbled to shore to mate
the spit of the sea, book gills keeping damp
driest span, spiraling sand-circles to entice,
partner climbing onto her back, scudding
into the tide. She didn’t make it out,
this one, her tender
insides exposed to the
wind. My mother
the arthropod into a sack, brought it
the house, wanted to boil its guts
wanting the empty shell, but even dead,
too cruel, and instead,
forgot it drying on the
Jaws: A Parable, a translation by Meryl DePasquale
a child, I played on beaches where a blockbuster had been filmed. This was
before rich people had completely taken over the island. In the movie, a
shark with welt-colored skin ate a woman who swam alone at night, a boy on an
inflatable raft, a fisherman with a dirty mouth.
the beach, the sea snail shells were speckled pink. Healthy gums. My sister
refused to wear sunscreen; her bony shoulders became two matched shells. I
think it was the texture she hated, too smooth and slimy. We never saw a
shark, but we felt salt water brush our skin and we knew to be afraid.
rich people, they eat fucking everything. They taste sunscreen in the water
and nuzzle in for a bite. They taste blood and go wild. They buy up all the
property and bowls of clam chowder. I can’t blame them. Sharks are solitary
swimmers; eating is how they interact.
sister and I spent hours stacking the shells into fertile piles that we could
never bring home. Leave them so other children can play, too. Then I’d
scramble over the rocks to find the ones with tender insides, feel them
unstick and restick in the sea spit. I’d study the
gray bodies missing from the shells on shore.
the forest where our family camped was swapped for a golf course, the
neighbors’ scuba equipment—left drying on a clothesline—disappeared. I didn’t
know what scuba was yet, but I explained to them (in a careful, grown-up
voice), that raccoons came through the campsites every night. Any food not
secured could be carried away in their tiny jaws.
doubt the golf course has raccoons, but it definitely has sharks, gliding
over the seabed in their little carts, nicking the sand with their white
Molly Sutton Kiefer is the author of the hybrid essay Nestuary (Ricochet Editions, 2014) and the poetry
chapbooks The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake (Astounding Beauty
Ruffian Press, 2010) and City of Bears (dancing girl press, 2013). Her
work has appeared in The Collagist, Harpur
Palate, Women’s Studies Quarterly, WomenArts
Quarterly, Berkeley Poetry Review, you are here, Gulf Stream, Cold Mountain
Review, Southampton Review, and Permafrost, among others.
She is a founding editor of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, is a member of
the Caldera Poetry Collective, serves as poetry editor to Midway Journal,
reviews for PANK, and runs Balancing the Tide: Motherhood and
the Arts | An Interview Project. More can be found at mollysuttonkiefer.com
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