My breath holds stones. This white light
shines down on my face, showcases
every freckle, all three lines between my brows,
hair along my jaw.

This is ocean
open to the edge of the world
perpetual spill into space
white-bellied fish flip slim bodies
toward the nearest stars.

I am broken shells
sifting under the tide.
They study my ridges and grit.

This is ocean
tiny mollusks pushed up the beach
where they burrow fast
under sand removed in the next wave,
each one tiny Sisyphus.

I have been strapped to this table
since January, doctors peering down
at my chest like I am Eve
and they are all Adams.

Toucan cries in her cage for South America
and a window to speak to spirits.
Tortoise pushes against glass, dreaming Africa.

The doctors removed a breast.
They may return for the other one tomorrow.
Offerings must be weighed.
This long, dark suture
may not speak the right words.

There is no return.
I walk out into the water.


Barbara Muller Bowen's most recent publications have been in Voices de la Luna and the San Antonio Express-News. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, cats, dog, and a bottle of Writers' Tears Irish whiskey.