Excerpt read by Caitlin Duffy ‘15.5
There was a storm, a shipwreck. There were Puritans looking for a place to pray. A reef—serrated and rising from the sea—named the Devil’s Backbone by those who out-swam the drowning tug of hosiery and buckled boots, the swift darkness in a throatful of brine, who felt the soft footing of a sandy shore.
The island they named Eleuthera, a Greek word for freedom.
Then there was a cave like a yawning mouth: a home, high-ceilinged, acoustics of the finest church. A rocky pulpit—too perfect for coincidence—a sign to the Eleutherans: a gift from God. The island knelt before them, a blank surface of sea and sky, waiting to be given a past and a future.
This is that future: the locals call the island “Lutra,” as if sun and salt could erode letters too. They fish from docks staggering rotten-legged into the sea, their bodies black against the horizon—like human hieroglyphics—and yet, how hard it is to read the meaning in their poses. To separate defiance from defeat. These children of children of children of slaves, shackled and shipped to an island named Freedom.
The locals, they speak too quick for me to understand sometimes, their voices like chiming bells. “Dats da ting,” they tell me, dark arms lifting slack fishing lines. “Groupa gettin smalla an smalla.”
Before long, the Eleutherans feared they’d failed their maker. The rye they’d planted hadn’t come. Their few spades cracked and split. They sweated, starved, dug graves for their companions. Gripped scripture with cracked and bleeding hands.
AFFLICTION IS A BITTER ROOT, BUT IT BEARS THE SWEETEST FRUIT.[read more]
“Shark Fishing” by Allegra Hyde appeared in NER 35.4.
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