Having Sent an Old Picture, He Asks if I Remember Koh Phangan

by Jeanine Walker

Two hunched, shadowed figures, two flat silhouettes, sway in front of the boats
that went out to drag fish in each morning, as we slept beneath mosquito netting,

dreaming of the various ways we would refuse to eat the fish––allergies,
we always claimed in Korea, but here the fishermen and bungalow workers

laughed when we said it, as though they knew, without a doubt,
that much of what Americans tell themselves is a lie.

He and I were guests there, but now I want to say just I: I was a guest there,
I slept alone beneath the net, woke on my own to the ants that found their way

through it, and I, as fishermen fished as usual, became ill from the water
I used to clean my mouth of the taste he gave it.

One of the boats looks like a bird, a stork settled on water, and one of the men,
left pant leg rolled up, resembles a bird that hops through the tide.

I noticed so many footprints those mornings, but after the woman
who served us breakfast finished sweeping the sand with that long-fingered,

bamboo broom, the footprints were gone, replaced with indented rows, the likes
of which would have been matched if hair kept the marks of fingers dragged through it.

The boats, the boats, the birds, the fish and fishermen, the boats.
I never spoke to them but watched as their traces disappeared every morning,

as the woman who ate the fish swept them clean. I can still hear that scraping
of stalks on sand. What lasts only lasts because we choose it to.


Jeanine Walker is a poet who holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. A recipient of fellowships from Artist Trust and the Jack Straw Cultural Center, she has published poems in Chattahoochee Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Third Coast, and other journals, and a full-length collection is forthcoming from Groundhog Poetry Press. She teaches poetry to children and adults in Seattle.

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