I seem to have woken up in an aquarium,
a place littered with lichens, with corals, with
snapping lobsters having left their dirty homes
for the cavities of my own body. I turn to face the young boy,
the sleeping young boy, and in the silence of early morning
I offer him my confessions: I am a nervous person.
I have arthritis. I remember everything. There's more to it,
of course, like the story of my father, how
his sun-burnt body inhaled steam from the stovetop,
how I would throw the clicking invertebrates into the pot before
running out to the spigot for more water. There's more to it,
of course, there’s my stepmother's homemade tea
and all the apologies of a highly anticipated Saturday night.
Sorry for the bony elbows, I say to you, sorry we were drunk,
sorry about the whole episode in the cab, how
I lost my breath when saying your name aloud.
That's what this is, after all, something underwater,
a place that knows only the suggestion of sunlight.
I am in here, I yelled to the kitchen while struggling
to hold my filled bucket. Get me that water, he said,
get me the giant knife from the dishwasher, we're going to
finish them off, we're eating lobster tonight. I poured my water into theirs
and watched as their claws grasped for a shoreline made of sand,
not copper. Sorry for making the noise, one’s eyes seemed to say,
sorry for making you guilty. I stared at their backless forms
and touched my own spine while you hollowed their tails. Mom,
as you made me call her, she lit a candle on the back porch
and asked me to say the blessing while sipping her tea.
You wanted me. Dear God, I say, Dear Heavenly Father thank you
for the idea of spines. Thank you for his body and its freckled thighs,
the way it moved over me like sunlight over reeds. Thank you—no,
this is wrong. Sorry God, I say, sorry for fucking a man and
saying your name aloud, father, but when you ask me to say the blessing
some people have got to be named. Dear Body, Dear Lobsters,
please come sit down, we've got some food leftover and
my stepmother has left the table. Dear Boy, dear Last Night
please keep me hidden, I don't want the sun anymore.
Let's drown here and sleep forever. Sorry for the bony spine,
sorry in advance for the good-bye kiss and for already
planning a real date with cold beer and Japanese movies.
Amen, you say, Amen Amen and you pass me the plate,
father, you pass the good china before I drop everything with
my clumsy, aching fingers. Our night begins with a small disaster,
the broken plate falling in love with the floor. Sorry for breaking everything,
I say, wiping the sweat from my arms. You stir and wait for me to speak.
Engram Wilkinson was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. He has worked on an Irish dairy farm, as a delivery driver, croissant baker, youth football coach, and, most recently, as an operations manager. He tweets erratically @engramw.