Under the city, the streets are lined white, a cathedral cobbled of crystal halite. It is
here that we scrape the belly of the earth, strip away her mineraled
skin, dead before time. We see ourselves in the salt, we see our eyes water
and our bones dissolve to silt. The surface bears down hard and our mouths parch
dry. They crack and sting with saline. We imagine dying here, our bodies
forever fresh, packed with salt like meat. We join the trilobites in the walls, drowning
in a dried-up sea. Our fingers split open on the salt of the earth, and even our blood is clean.
Every year, the same warning: you’ve got forty seconds in the water, down there with the weeds and the cold, before the November Witch
ties off your lungs with her milkweed hair. Don’t fall in. But it’s only on these days, when the horizons disappear and the waves
reach, aching for the boat, that my grandfather’s sturgeon can be caught. I have a photo from the last century:
a sepia boy smiling with a bony fish, just as long as his seven-year-old arm. Alive, but too small to eat. The fish is all that
still moves of that world leeched of color and breath. The image quickens. He’s grown the length of the boat, heavier than me.
My grandfather’s religion was kindness, his sport, catch-and-release. He tied his own flies and never shot a buck
in his life, never tried. When I find the sturgeon, it will remember him and know me. The lake floods the sky.
Bailey Spencer is a recent graduate of Boston College, where she was the recipient of the Dever Fellowship. She was also a 2014 June Fellow at the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. A native of Michigan, she will spend the next year teaching in Germany.