My mother boils water in a tin pan, sifting
in the powdered chocolate and stirring.
“The horizon is not a destination,” she instructs,
not turning from the stove. Her hair falls
in a thin braid down her spine; when I was small,
I spiralled it beneath her breasts & around her hips,
imagining her body as a lighthouse, the braid
as the lighthouse stair. “The horizon is a beacon,”
my father says from the other side of the room,
bent over his table, a sharpened nub of black charcoal
behind his sunburnt ear. The winter storms
have erased, reshaped, displaced every sandbar
in our bay, and he is hastily re-making
the maps that decide our shores.
“Get the mugs down,” my mother points
her chin at the cabinet. As I pass, she tugs
at my braid, still so short it comes to rest
between my shoulder blades. “The horizon
is a siren; you should learn to grow
roots, instead.” She pours the steaming chocolate
and swells my head with stories of her childhood
inland: lakes, rivers, ponds, and rills – water
formed by the land it fills. “And then the floods,”
she sips, “swallowing our farms up, every year.
Sometimes sandbags saved us. Most times,
they were swept away, too; with our shoes
and dolls, our clocks and books; even our bones.
That’s why you build a cemetery on a hill.”
Kimberly Glanzman was a finalist for the 2019 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize and a 2020 Pushcart nominee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sleet Magazine, Stonecoast Review, Jet Fuel, Pretty Owl Poetry, South Dakota Review, Electric Lit, and Iron Horse Literary Review, among others. She earned her M.F.A. from the University of Kentucky and currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Follow her at your peril on Instagram @speculativemermaid