Two years after she died, I found my grandmother living
in the walls of my body, sleeping by day, waking by night—
we’re so good at being good; it’s hard to tell how bad we are
at being women. When their babies die, mother whales carry
their dead calves’ bodies in their mouths like cobalt knives,
haul like marble fists through blue glass until their dead have
blown away or apart. And a woman is supposed to dig a hole.
Or look away. I look away. In all my dreams, Evelyn and I are
either watching the ocean as we would a child playing near
the ocean, or else searching ourselves, reaching as though for
house keys in a street grate—and nothing’s bringing us closer
or taking us farther away: only the beginning of how it feels
when you bear, only to lose, your children inside your body.
She is sleeping, I tell myself when I touch the photos of her
as a young woman—her mouth, now my mouth—smiling,
doubled-over, laughing as easily as screaming, holding herself,
turning her face into the sun. She’s sleeping, so I’ve found
when I close my eyes and hold my head as I once saw her
hold a melon she caught from falling in a farmer’s market—
open my mouth, and there is nothing, but song: our ribs, like
light lost in loblollies, our skin, every sycamore in November.
M.K. Foster is a poet and Renaissance literature scholar from Birmingham, Alabama. Her poetry appeared or is forthcoming in The Boston Review, Crazyhorse, The Columbia Review, Rattle, The Account, The Adroit Journal, Sixth Finch, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. Her work has been recognized with a Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, two Pushcart Prize nominations, and most recently, inclusion in Best New Poets 2017. She currently pursues a PhD at the University of Alabama. Additional notes and links can be found at www.marykatherinefoster.com.