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.


Photo Credit: Staff