Previously published in Fence
They push their cities into the ocean. Build tin houses on the hulls of great, empty ships. Paint their bodies in cool mud to prevent burning. Paper is rare, so they put their memory in the mouth of one of their daughters. Wrinkled, wavy sheets of skin; old and distorted. They have grown small and thin. Less, and they require less air. Easily in the water, pulling their bodies through gaps in the current, a shimmer of bubbles in their wake. Hooked noses, small brows. And have been retreating all these thirty years. The islands are no bigger than their furnaces where they temper steel and glass, having lost their faith in wood. Whose language has eroded—worn like the bottoms of their feet—and moved to the back of their throats, round sounds. In the roll of their daughters, there is a poet; her lips tattooed with knotted lines and dots. The blue ink, which fades green and bleeds out over the years. The fat from fish mixed with dried scales and chalk smeared around her eyes. To the cadence of water slapping against the tin; she recounts a mythology of salt.

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