by Jenny Sadre-Orafai

People who aren't us think that the ocean is all blue but there are lines 
if you look hard. Water isn't easy to read. We say dolphins can stay 
underwater twenty minutes tops. We tell them that we bury our dead 
boats in container ships. We say the waves are clapping for you. We 
say there are reasons why we don’t build our houses taller than our 
trees. We don't tell them that the town is taking the toll away. We only 
warn the small children about going out higher than their waists. We 
point out what they should take pictures of even though it’s nothing. 
We go past the buoys, warnings floating, and the lifeguards don’t say 
a thing. We aren't worth the trouble. We're a reflection swimming 
backward. We're crabs breaking the pot.


Jenny Sadre-Orafai is the author of Paper Cotton Leather, Malak and Dear Outsiders, and she is the co-author of Book of Levitations. Her prose has appeared in The Rumpus, Fourteen Hills, The Los Angeles Review, The Collagist and others. She has taught at the university level for 21 years. Currently, she is a Professor of English at Kennesaw State University, where she teaches creative writing.

Jenny Sadre-Orafai. “Locals,” from Dear Outsiders, University of Akron Press, copyright © 2023. Reprinted by permission of the University of Akron Press.

Poems by Mia Pearson