Sourdough Starter / Heal
for the diver who brought the dead man out of the ocean near Anacapa Island

            Only a backpack returned from Kodiak Island,
a shell of you on the carcass of you carrying little hope
for bread, your hair painted by Botticelli, a golden wriggling
mass salted by an ocean where cold or not you poured sweat
and tears and

            on that boat you bought the tin of starter from the cook
who fixed her life using a bone needle and steel thimble,
a wiry woman who showed you her scars and told you
there are inches on every island not owned by bears

            for you had fled to Alaska and stored what survived
of your heart – the size of a limpet – as your insides detoxed
from that night you dove in and pulled out the man crushed
at the pier in waves gone red at the piling of Anacapa

            until you rocked that bit of you that wanted sleep
on a fishing boat off Chiniak before that bit came to stand guard
in a tree hidden house where your wetsuit hung black and synthetic,
a thing of itself without tribe

            because letting go was kin to letting your dog in and out,
your black lab with the lame leg, letting you watch him smell
for a soft place to bury his limp, letting you see how to drag
a surviving foot like a club that beats you

            as fall came and went, as winter came and went,
as spring came and went, and that small jar of starter
kept all along, that starter that waited for you to be finally far
from the fish factories and the stink of things that rot,

            that waited for your roughened hands to put the yeast
to flour and water to shape a loaf to bake, waited for your mouth
to open, for your throat to swallow, for you to learn again
how to eat what comes out of ground.





Paula C. Lowe is a doctoral candidate whose poems have appeared in Evening Street Review, River Styx, Crosswinds, Poet Lore, The Iowa Review, apercus, and other journals and anthologies. Her collection of calling poems, MOO (2014), was a finalist for the International Book Award in Poetry. She co-authored Poems For Endangered Places (2008). She lives on rangeland in California.

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