My father hauled a dead sea turtle
from a beach in the Florida Keys
he coveted that shell.
I was not allowed to watch, but
I tried to see my father over the dunes
sand spurs in my feet
I pushed upward
over gentle curves of sand
to see the gutting of that sea turtle
wondering how life was removed.
do they kettle or simply swarm over death?
I did not know I was too young.
The angles of my father’s wrist —
he held the knife
his bones and tendons
rippling under his skin
cutting, and cutting
scraping flesh from shell
My father worked for hours
in the Florida sun
I watched, and watch
to understand this man, I’d never
seen so violent and destructive.
My father never divorced my mother, but
she left him, he left her
the chaotic kettling cycle of a relationship:
One would return, then the other
only to repeat: leave – return – leave…
cutting words sharp angular words.
That shell hung on our wall for years
seeming to decay with the marriage.
There were no hills of sand to hide behind, only hollow doors
no sand spurs to remind me that I had feelings
no sounds of the ocean or seagulls
I sold that shell to a neighbor kid for fifty cents.
Previously published by Headline Poetry & Press 2019
Copyright © Jeremy Proehl | Year Posted 2020
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