Volume 68, Number 2 · Spring 2019

Disappearing Act

His sisters boil yams, watching
     air, like salmon, furrow the water.
 There are ways of telling

someone is becoming smaller, and our mother wrinkles
  her forehead full of shadows, patterns
         tea leaves in the shape of a fist.

This is not what we’ve been waiting for
 the whole week, sweet
       potato smell tumbling
   through the rooms and Gramma Ella
 spread across the couch like soft cheese.

   This is not our father rupturing
            doorways, ones we never knew
were there, tucked behind the fridge
    and hidden by a curtain of ivy—not

 him saying, Look,
              and us searching

   his pockets for hard candies.
   clacks against Ella’s teeth, and her voice climbs
          the tunnel of her throat.
       It burns me up inside, she says, and for years

I’d picture her with P. T. Barnum,
 hair pulled tight as the checkered dress
      she might have worn, mouth caverned
     to accept the fire.

D. M. Spratley is a Black, queer, Southern writer. She received her MFA from Hollins University. Her poems appear in Rattle and Drunken Boat, and she has received awards from Princeton University and Rattle. These poems belong to a completed chapbook manuscript, entitled Bloodroot. Find her on Twitter @dmsprat.