The Geography of Erasure

Inspired by Diane Roberts’ “The Blue Ether of Another World” and W.H. Auden’s “In Praise of Limestone.”

My sister is dying. She trembles in the waters’ great hands and underneath the seismic pressure of man. Surely, she is sinking, half-swallowed by the Gulf and the Atlantic. The skeletons of fish and coral construct her, but she is unstable, vacillating between sea and sky. Pockets of land crumble into her cavernous belly, where her springs burble, a new kind of underworld, one that bellows with birth.

I miss my sister. She drowns in water vapor, the erosion of waves lapping up her coasts, mined for phosphate, sugar, citrus; contorted by golf courses, theme parks, and condos. Her sand is not even pure white anymore; instead, a brown algae encompasses her crystals. Imagine the thin skin of your feet on a beach, sensitive to every grain, a quartz Braille I learned in childhood, h-e-l-p spelled out in the webs between my toes.

My sister is crying, adding to the descent of her edges. Her inland swamps, like hair, recede, and she becomes more naked, though man is quick to cover her up with hotels, skyscrapers, and gated communities. The springs that once held virgin sapphires and emeralds are now polluted and gray. Smudged. Even her tears are murky.

I have tried to better understand my sister by playing peninsula games. I contort my body to her odd shape in the bathtub and dream of drowning. I lie on my right side, and my limbs swirl. I bend my legs and intertwine my arms. I imagine two finger-legs walking across my panhandle arms to find the capital between my shoulder and my clasped hands. The travelers meet in the middle, right before my elbow. Here lies Tallahassee, Creek for “old town.”

To mimic my sister’s curves, my head bends under my arms, and my knees come up against my stomach or bend downward. My toes jet out into the water near my ass. The torso and legs are the hard parts. My breasts don’t conform to the shape of my sister. I can’t get it quite right, the peninsula part.

Don’t say a woman can’t be a peninsula, that it is a man’s form.

Part of a woman is hidden.

That doesn’t stop me from empathy. That doesn’t mean I don’t imagine Lake Okeechobee as my belly button in the Everglades of my belly, or Tampa Bay as the space between my legs. My sister’s body hosts many versions of mine.

My sister and I are circus performers.

My sister whispers into my ear: I remind her of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge because I am always doing gymnastics to love myself, to avoid hurting others, to maneuver around my own constant reconstruction.

My sister says I remind her of the Everglades, a muggy marshland of confusion and indecision. She tells me that I am her sky. I host the skeletons of girls, the clouds of guilt, the sunshine of redemption.

Like my sister, I bobble. I buoy. I bloom. If bodies rise from the dead, sins can be forgiven. My sister is sinking, going under a watery anesthesia, because of me and my family. She forgets before she forgives, like me.

My sister is drowning, a beautiful submersion, erasing herself for protection. She wears the brittle lace of limestone; her edges shimmer with the liquid of dissolved diamonds.