Sarah Rose Thomas

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A Cuban Boy Takes a Descriptive Writing Test

His hands itch in the quiet, waiting classroom
the clock ticks away the 20-minute limit
but he still waits, paper blank,
trying to pull the beach
from his memory,

palm fronds sway in his native language
the sand is so white
it’s like the snow he first touched last week
Look prety
Prety—I see blu water
written in thick, sad English

words drain down
slipping through the holes
he’s finally poked in the test sheet
words crash to the floor
on the shore of his Cuban beach

his ideas are the ocean
a bucketful at a time into silty words
pouring them into a moat around a sand castle
his safe place–far away from this foreign test
He wants to say, “My castle has enough rooms for us all,
Teacher, there’s enough for us all.”
before the moat drains away
and the sea-shelled towers melt back into the sea

Wisconsin Mermaid                                                                         

I held my body still
trying to float in twenty inches of bathwater
my toes pointed toward the faucet
my chin pointed toward the light
water silhouetting my face
everything else fully baptized

I was four and this is my first memory
my hair, a halo of sea grass
in slow motion waves on the water’s surface
the forgotten sound of the womb in my ears
a heartbeat in water, not my mother’s but my own

The scratch of porcelain under my fingers
the water, a degree warmer than my slippery body
and I was surrounded by the hum of deep ocean
in my land-locked bathtub

My mother would capture wisps of my hair
stir them like seaweed to clear the suds
my scalp would tingle with her touch
before she flipped the lever that signaled the end of bath time

I would sit in the tub
until all water was whirlpooled away
the drain kissing my toes like starfish

I would press my stomach flat
turn my ear to the retreating water
until only a thin skin remained
my skin covered in droplets like shining scales
evaporating water chattered my teeth
until my mother rescued me

She twisted and curled my hair
lines of water flowed down my back
down my legs
pooled on the tile floor
she scooped me up
with the softness of a towel
and carried me to bed


Sarah Rose Thomas teaches high school English nearly Up North at Coleman High School. If she isn’t creating paper crafts and paintings with her three little sons, she is creating poetry and fiction when they’re sleeping.

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