The Story of Where Iouanaloa Lives

by Catherine Esther Cowie

I tell the girl I put the sea inside her.
I tell the girl if she is still,
she can smell the salt,
the seaweed, the tourists’ shit.
I tell the girl
if she closes her eyes,
she can hear the sea thrum.
I tell the girl
the sea has an unblinking eye,
castles made from skeletons.

I tell the girl I put the sea inside her,
so she can have what I have —
Iouanaloa, her tall body of green,
her smashed open head
full of ash and smoke.
She can have my fear,
She can have my longing.

I tell the girl I put the sea inside her
to explain her wildness—
how she hung
from the second-story balcony,
fell and broke her arm.
What if she believes?
Will Iouanaloa come
and live inside her?
Even here in the Midwest,
with its grey quilted sky?

I tell the girl
Iouanaloa will grow
in the dark light of her body.
I feed the girl roots,
dasheen and cassava.
I fill a bathtub with water,
with salt, with flat stones.
I tell the girl to rub her face in the sea.

Catherine Esther Cowie’s “The Story of Where Iouanaloa Lives” appears in Flock 23: Kith & Kin.

Catherine Esther Cowie is a 2017 Callaloo Writing Workshop graduate. Her work has appeared in The Penn Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Moko Magazine: Caribbean Arts and Letters, Forklift Ohio and is forthcoming in Potomac Review, Portland Review and Southern Humanities Review. Originally from St. Lucia,  she currently resides in Illinois.