issue 31 poetry

When we lived on the gulf

by A.M. Kennedy

leaf pile, exhibit A by Katie Whatley

When we lived on the gulf

The ten-mile bridge slumps with blistered pavement,
dripping ozone and fishbelly-cream into the sea,
held up by the memories of afternoons beneath the pier,
ice cream sliding off stiff sugar cone.

Static and storm, we built myths there together—
sticking lightning quills into each other’s spines and
pretending we were gods of ocean, crying tears to
keep alive the fish and mangroves.

Lived twenty years in a hurricane, you and I,
we grew fingers long and dug them down
into the limestone to withstand gale-force, endured
just for those precious few minutes in the quiet eye of the storm.

Summer was a fever dream that happened over and over,
until eventually I broke away to sleep through the heat in the bathtub,
licking the condensation off the faucet and listening
to the thunder knock around next door.

You put on your headphones and let the spikes
puncture your eardrum, deafen your best sense—
(if you were so afraid of storms, why did you even move here
where the land made your hurricane father?)

The sign still says: Long-Bridge Ahead, Check Gas,
it smells of rot from a thousand seagull-picked mollusks,
spoiled sulfates, and the last storm’s carnage,
in a way in reminds me of home.

Red sky at morning was always a warning,
but on the gulf I learned to swim, so I guess I should be grateful.
I heard you still live there, treading against a current with
forearms strong enough to create an undertow.

A.M. Kennedy is a writer, photographer, and painter. She has been previously published in I-70 Review, Ambit, Grub Street, and others.

Katie Whatley is a Queer artist born and raised in South Florida. She is pursuing a Painting and Drawing minor in addition to her Bachelor’s in Political Science at Louisiana State University. She currently resides in Baton Rouge, LA, where she enjoys LSU Tigers football. Her work has been featured in publications such as 805 Lit + Art and Sink Hollow.