Current Issue poetry

sunday school lesson

by a. adenike phillips

sunday school lesson

easter morning on dania beach,
gulls fly over the waves
waiting for grace to show
its shadow, then swoop

& thieve it from the tumultuous cum
of the sea. here i see endless
versions of myself cresting
atop the spumes, revolving over

the same wounds, each more treacherous
than the first. how this ocean church exalts,
preserves all that is god,
all that is not god.

the riptide pulls me under to drown
to become a concubine
of the deep. i take a full
gulp of your saltiness,

my body jerks
& contorts like flapping fins trapped
in the net
like sunday-school-truth tangled

in a reef of lies. my heart sinks
like baubles of a dying boat—lost forever
to my loves, i am lost
with no desire to swim,

to save myself for you, to kiss
this wide foamy mouth again, then again
& again. but don’t come
for me just yet.

i conjure bones lost now
found. through the vortices of time,
we speak of uncharted currents, of treasure
thrown overboard, the keepsake

of memory buried in our naked,
aching bellies.
we are legion & we are legend,

now we reshore, stand on blessed
assurance, reincarnate our flesh
with the grit of sand & song,
cover ourselves in its glassy armor.

come now—come. we are listening
for the sound of your slapping
sails, for the heart
of your creaking, wooden god.

a. adenike phillips (she/her) is a Black, feminist poet and native of New Jersey.  Her writing interrogates trauma through the microlens of the natural world.  She was a participant in AWP’s Writers to Writers program (Season 17).  She is completing her first chapbook while working in her eight gardens.