PoetryIssue 17 | March 2013

Eureka, California

by Dena Afrasiabi

What were we looking for
in that inn where Dad dragged us,
that antique room belonging to long-faced
loggers and their grim wives,
necks tucked away by ruffles

in that room with maroon velvet chairs
engraved by cigarette burns,
warm relics from strangers whose feet
were touched by our feet, where suitcases
lie bloated by the sofa like dead whales.

Was it the rocks beneath our backs
who like sleeping fairy tale monsters
threaten to wake with our waking,
or was it Mom stretched out on the sand like half
of a stranded octopus, eyes opening to say
I dreamed I was floating on the Caspian,

or was it the shells my brother and I hunted
beneath rocks and seaweed bulbs,
fingers hungry for the mussels’ hard-ribbed skin
the dark kisses of anemones.

We found mirages of tide pools, but even
the wettest rocks were bare.

The next morning our suitcases
lie open-mouthed and full.
Mom finds shells in her pockets, while Dad
takes a salt bath in the tub.

Was it the seagull that Dad found
half-sunk in a small hill of sand,
the way he said, Don’t wake it, smiling
by the water, spreading his arms out to float
backwards from the shore, looking at the sky
and saying, how beautiful, how beautiful.

My brother and I traced the small
twist of its neck with our fingers
as Mom closed her eyes.

On the way home, Dad talks
about the sea, about building
a house of redwood trees in
Eureka, a tribute to persistence
as Mom listens to the shell
she’s holding to her ear.

Sitting in the back
we don’t tell them about
the one black eye
still staring from the sand.

About the author

Dena Afrasiabi has recently watched the sun set between two continents in Istanbul, Turkey and visited a medieval Swedish prison that was once home to a famous cross-dressing thief with excellent culinary skills. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Enizagam, Kartika Review, Prick of the Spindle and Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian-American Writers. She holds an MFA from Rutgers University and writes and resides in Austin, Texas.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok