“On the Charm Bracelet of Life, Dying Is the Shape of Driftwood” by Kelli Russell Agodon


On the Charm Bracelet of Life,
Dying Is the Shape of Driftwood

Because prayer is not a lifeguard
and the waves keep lapping over the rocks,
all the flowers are salty and wilting
in the summer sun. How do you spell
drowning? Depending on your height,
it’s the size of the ocean you stand in.
That summer was more than a puddle.
That fall, a sea pulling me down. The man
who held my hipbone and pulled me under
could have been eel grass, could have been

a hungry shark, a riptide, could have been
what lurks beneath deep waters and swims
near us when we think we’re alone.

Because prayer is flotation device, I kept talking
to god. I sacrificed my body because
that’s what anxiety does — Lent as starvation:
what won’t kill you but make you thinner.
Better to be a gull, ready to break open
whatever you need. Better to be a wave,
taking the space it wants.
But sometimes you live part of your life
as the driftwood, you wonder if you’re floating,
you wonder if you’re already gone.

Kelli Russell Agodon

Kelli Russell Agodon’s most recent book, Hourglass Museum (White Pine Press, 2014), was a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards and shortlisted for the Julie Suk Prize in Poetry. Her other books include The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice (coauthored with Martha Silano), Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry (co-edited with Annette Spaulding-Convy), and Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, winner of the Foreword Book of the Year Prize for poetry and a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. Her work as appeared in The Atlantic, Harvard Review, and New England Review. Kelli is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press, where she works as an editor and book cover designer, and is also the Co-Director of the Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women. She has received grants in writing and editing from Artist Trust, the Puffin Foundation, and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation. She is currently working on her 4th collection of poems. www.agodon.com / www.twosylviaspress.com .

Photo Credit: Staff