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“It’s kicks in her legs that wake her up”


It’s kicks in her legs that wake her up. It’s day out—high sun, cold. In the wind, the canvas of the tent claps. Kicks in her leg. The kid. With his heels, the kid hits her to wake her up. The huntress-gatheress sees Dzeta’s body, swollen with water, floating on the surface of the water contained by the raft. Her violet tongue hangs out of her mouth, her rolled up cheeks reveal her fangs and jaw, clenched. Kicking her legs, still. The fury on the kid’s face. She moves, crawls, drags herself over to him and starts to untie the knots imprisoning him. The kid’s hands are burning. Panic- stricken, the same fear as hers—a wave, the raft flipped over, to die now, drowned, he pulls on the ropes which, soaked, tauten. Unable to speak, unable to smack him to make him stop, she pauses her gesture. Lifts her hand, clenches her fist while looking him in the eye. He pants. Calms down. His knife. His serrated knife. Hooked to his belt, in its sheath. She checks around his waist, finds it, takes it out, cuts the straps, the kid’s wrists are free, now his arms. His last strength passed into his fear, dying drowned, tied up. He falls into the huntress-gatheress’ arms, his head against her neck, turns his face to the baby, whose eyes and mouth are closed. He shuts his eyes. He feels her push him away, clings to her, she sits him down, no longer holds him up, the effort of supporting him exhausts her, the raft pitches—drowned if he falls, he holds on. He opens his eyes. Sees her, from behind, open the crates. Dzeta floats, the purple of her tongue. He closes his eyes. Pitches. Opens. The huntress-gatheress is next to him, the waterproof pack, red, from the medical kit in her hands. She is feverish, tries to open it, shakes, needs antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, vitamins. Success. Needs water. She makes for the stern of the raft. From the water, emergency blankets in her hands, it pitches, comes back. She holds out the pills to the kid. He opens his hand, docile, closes it again, still. She pours some water into his mouth, he swallows, she slips the pills through his lips, she pours some water into his mouth, he swallows. When it’s her turn, she, water, pills, water. Swallows.

from ScrewballFind more by Anne Kawala at the library

Copyright © 2018 Anne Kawala
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

Published in Anne Kawala Kit Schluter Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.