Last Rites

by Cameron Hunt McNabb

Down the sandbar’s narrow aisle, she walks
Firm against the bell-like, tolling waves.
High above her head, she holds dry hands
While she shuffles slow to search the sand.

Two things her feet could find, or feel:
The soft, sandpaper of the stingray’s back
Whose frightened wings soon curl like mushroom plumes
As its barbed stinger strikes at one’s bare heel.
Or, the gentle roughness of the sand dollar,
Who humbly buries himself in the earth
And changes color, once dead, like bleached white bread.

Soon she feels the harsh, familiar stub
But she finds there neither flight nor sting.

To see her find, she plunges to the floor,
Inverted, with her breath held in her sides.
She blinks the salt like streaming tears from her eyes
And grasps the sand dollar’s thin, porous hem,
Which lies still tucked inside its sandy bed.

She carefully rolls away the grainy sheet
To see its starry imprint broken like
A sagging cross beneath her fingertips:
An adversary must have found it first
And left it, lifeless, to linger on the aisle.

High she lifts its broken body up and
Rises to the sky for breath at last,
Just as another wave exacts its toll.

 

Cameron Hunt McNabb is a fourth-generation Tampa native as well as an associate professor of English at Southeastern University. Her work focuses on her home state and has been published in the Tampa Review Online, Deep South, Steel Toe Review and Creative Loafing.

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