hobart logo

August 11, 2017 | Poetry

Raft Dress, Refugee

Barbara Rockman

Raft Dress, Refugee photo

She spread paper   thin as an aerogram
Back lit        silhouetted her shape onto tissue    traced her shadow   

Pinned to ripstop thick as rain       she sheared herself a size larger than
made its double:      triple stitched shoulder to shoulder

smeared Teflon to seams    The twin shapes would become
inflatable bed to hold her      Departure: packed with balsa and foam

A garment can withstand swell if the body
can withstand laceration   salt and purpling

Weeks she worked       before others rose  
Under her pillow     the plosives that propelled her:  prosper  plea      

She left    one cupboard flung wide     two cups     canister of tea    
brothers     bed stripped to coils     receipt for needles thick as nails

In her skirt pocket: duct tape    nuts    her god
her legs a legend on the sheep mad hills
her body     a cage bundled against

The night she fled dragging the bigger-than shape of herself
down dust streets     One dog bared teeth     One bell clung to rust 

She hefted the raft dress onto her back      knew which alley was least lit    
Others had left a trail:  cracked photos   burnt log

She reached an inlet    knelt and blew from a belly that had never held a child
blew into what she’d made   Tossing out onto low tide      dress she blessed

threw her body       onto slick rocking     Her dark hair flaired
Her skirt:  spread wings       Pushed off    paddled out   Surveillance might

identify angel or pelagic bird       Paddled and prayed   plosives
in her ear:  portal     plow     Do not prey upon

Day night day     moon  storm       wind like clamps to her breast  
Her face salt-iced       legs numb         arms bandaged in kelp and gull shit                                             

Air easing out      Dream was too heavy     Barely able when her face
scratched beach     cyclone of tatters        Orange dye transferred to flesh  alarm

Shore of human leavings     hers   a shroud stumbling to stand
How old she appeared to those who salvaged her 

 

image: Tara Wray


SHARE