Three Poems by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Main Road

here in Delap, clouds low down
at least hold down
streetlight and porch
to let grey show
and vary tone

and over the span, the dark
is dark is dark, the palms
stripped of coconut and shadow
in Rairok

I turn forty—
in Delap I have half
my thirties still to burn
and this taxi

van keeps speeding
no matter how many lovers
never loved
the line I read above my eyes

the waves won’t wash this arch to tides




The Oceanids’ Canto
from The Bringers of Fruit

we never liked her
never, no never, did we—she had impossible
—flax & loam and darknesses for highlights
& dinge
beneath her kernels of horn curling tea-stained
on her feet
graying up from cuticle to ankle and sometimes
to her knees

—wait, I heard her mother once bought her knee
socks bleached
just as white as our skin—oh dear no, your tan
hardly shows
—and listen, Persephone took less than a week to stain them
beyond reach
of all the chlorine and hydrogen peroxide Olympus could order
—that’s all of it
—yes, that was the point—we never liked her

she’d chase
bees through roses, and what did she think
her blood would attract
but Uncle Death and his desires—she really deserves
his coffin brown eyes
—do you think they stay brown underground? they certainly don’t shine
like polished mahogany
in the sun—oh god, did you look—at him, oh no, I tried to hide
but glimpsed—
I’m sure his irises are grey down there; I’ve seen planks rise
from fields flooded
with Demeter’s tears—oh you’ve seen no such thing, we’ve been kept
from winter
by our foster father, says he won’t lose another—oh, but I have
before he knew
what his sister was up to, I lifted my shoulder over the foam, and I saw:
not even gray, a lack of tone and shade without even the certainty
of black
listen, this girl doesn’t even get an absence of light down there—

oh rocks,
I never understand what you’re saying, and we’ve had all the same
lessons, haven’t we?
—and all the same grades, too, but Persephone got As
what could he see
in such a filthy girl as her?—would you haven’t wanted
her place
—hush, no, that god has horns, I bet she rides him like a minotaur
or satyr
our gods will be civilized and chosen by the seas—

I heard he was Zeus’s choice
—and what does that god know of what a girl should get?
and yet
—come on, I hear the seahorse race is starting soon
& they sell corals
bright enough to grace our hair next to the finish line





Uliga Campus

sit for class
at blue

sea furies
under white outside

seashells crash, cracked
by each

are learning
behind white walls





Elizabeth Kate Switaj teaches literature, creative writing, and composition at the College of the Marshall Islands, on a coral atoll in Micronesia. She is a Contributing Editor to Poets’ Quarterly. Her first collection of poetry, Magdalene & the Mermaids, is published by Paper Kite Press. You can find her on Twitter.