Poetry: T.K. Lee’s “Sapelo”

////Poetry: T.K. Lee’s “Sapelo”

T.K. Lee


“Bathing Women” by Harue Koga

i know a good one:

up at daybruk
she said waiting

on the dock
waiting on

(people’s people
she said)
who talk too long
about prices
about costs
about the heat
july october
january may
she said

those the people
step over sand dollars,
to pick up leftover
char from fireworks
the night before
the year before

she said
they don’t know
the difference
ain’t never for sale
she said

as her toe chipped a tooth,
of a bull shark,
she said
hundreds teeth

hundreds sizes
end to end bent in
the concrete shore,
an old man’s jaw,

she said
she’s biling us shrimps
(the fire’s took the grill)
she said
they gold shrimps too
(she closes the grill
with a found twig)
got for free off her
brother’s daylean boat
(the good boat)

she said
the last ferry left
loud with gone-people
finning that lesser water
in DoBoy Sound
behind us, now
behind the crown
of saw palmetto,
behind the moon,
where you couldn’t see
the dock, you couldn’t

see the loggerheads,
she said
the fiddle-crabs come out
she said
to play their one-arm music
she said
to wake the middlenight
she said
so the thunder can start
(at that cloud coming)
she said
so the thunder can stop
(at that cloud going)
she said

against the driftwood
she would, in a moment,
lean far enough over—
her onyx midriff large,
curves of deep lines
trenched for miles
of a lived-in back,
of squatted shoulders
that circle and circle
her, a familiar shape
of a story, of an old-time
religion, sanded down
by years of looking
at things leaving,
at loose children
tied to the always-wind

with a casual gratitude
she pulls
the bull shark tooth

she said
the hard marsh sea-soil
we standing so proud on
is the oldest liar left
on this island
(next to her
uncle joe)
this hard marsh here
she said
still a bachelor
in a sweetgrass bed,
sheets sewn with secrets
of orphan teeth, whelk

she said
we made a new word
for this coast-spur
she said
‘Harsh’ g’on, call it
‘Harsh’ way out loud,
that’s what it is,
what it’s done
to us,

she said
the bull shark tooth
had come so clean
away, it lay there
in her geechee palm


josephine flung
the bull shark tooth
far back into
the coal-ocean
where it had come from
she said
where it belongs, but don’t
know what’s good
for it
she said

a small child
stole away by us
his bare feet dragging
a new tide behind him,
holding a Roman candle
(bullseye of light)
his child’s plate laugh,
full and raw,

he made a display
of that Roman candle
like we were worth it,

we were all worth
the bright,

brief magic
even a Roman candle
can have, treading
in the shallow ribbuh
of vagabond colors,
each splitting
the quiet ink of night
into, and in threes,
one brief, fresh
handful of minutes
we were a whole
same kind of

by the lit fuse

before i could help
myself, i found
myself clapping,
at the child,
at the Roman candle,
at how Josephine’d worked
the fire, the grill
took the gold from the shrimp,
at all of Sapelo

yes and
at her

she said
yes and

it was all good
it was all enough
i clapped
at how she knew
what was good enough

because good enough
she said
works well enough
she said

she’d come up
with a joke
(about her uncle joe
his dirty mouth,
a mynah bird and
something else
to do with the bull
shark tooth)

i didn’t have time
to laugh before
she asked me
if it was funny
what did i think
she said

i said
it was

a good one, Josephine


About the writer:
T.K. Lee’s award-winning work crosses genres, both on stage and off. At times a playwright, and other times a poet, he is at all times firmly planted in the American literary tradition of southern gothic storytelling. Most recently, Lee’s debut poetry collection TO SQUARE A CIRCLE, released in October 2018 through Unsolicited Press (USA), has garnered high critical praise for his “uncanny wit; impeccable sense of pacing and timing,” which is “bringing a dynamic new voice to poetry.” He is on faculty in the MFA Program at the historic Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi.

Image: Bathing Women” by Harue Koga (1895-1933). No medium specified. No size specified. Before 1933. Public domain.

By | 2019-01-22T13:57:25+00:00 January 22nd, 2019|LITERARY ARTS, Lyric, Poetry|