Sara Henning


Two lobsters are shunted into a cooler without water, and I'm driving without stopping.

I'm not thinking of the lightning sale, claws tethered with rubber. I'm not thinking of their bodies thrown away live at the end of the night.

How it must be in your final moments: a flashback of heart and ganglion. The realization that your life will begin, and not end, with water.

I was the kind of girl who caught beached fiddler crabs while my brother used driftwood to splint gull's wings.

The kind of girl who turned bath tubs into sea floor burrows, spending whole nights standing vigil over a wounded molter, while larvae hatched and fell from the belly. The kind who watched the orphans languor, heavy with yolk, then mimicked a tide with her fingers.

The kind of girl who, like a dune, still lives at the mercy of the surge.

One afternoon, I'm throwing beached jellyfish, my hands thronged into my mother's old pantyhose, watching their bodies bob and disappear in the spume. The bodies resemble gelatin molds, the manubrium like walnuts clustered at the bottom of a ramekin.

The sand, hot and loose under my feet. Then tentacles and nematocysts purging venom.

I'd like to tell you I ran home to a mother who consoled me with cotton gauze soaked in vinegar, a salve I can still smell.

I'd like to tell you that I left the animal for the cormorants that'd eat young shrimp clinging to its bell.

When it stung me, I used a washed up Coke can to rub sand into its body. I used a stick to sever it ruthlessly into many bodies.

In my pain, I stopped being a girl.

I could tell you it was like Orpheus, the bell singing desperately for its aboral axis, the ruined crystals of the eye stalks clinging together like harp strings, ocelli glittering audibly like a concordance of mica.

Not that I left crabs, pearled apron of gill and ransom, to be culled by fierce birds. Not that I left claws, forever reaching toward the sun.
Now, just my snow-thick boots are lobbing over tile, the cooler a stark and empty reckoning point, the meat manager dismissive when I point to the sign.

Say there were never any lobsters, I want to tell him.

I'm a woman who seasons her pot with spindrift, not just any
brackish storm.

Sara Henning is the author of the full-length collection of poetry A Sweeter Water (2013), as well as a chapbook, To Speak of Dahlias (2012). Her poetry, fiction, interviews and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Willow Springs, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Bombay Gin and the Crab Orchard Review. Currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, she serves as Managing Editor for the South Dakota Review.

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