Manzano Mountain Review is an online New Mexico literary journal affiliated with UNM-Valencia.

         Two Poems
by Issa M. Lewis


Sailors are buried at sea
and their faces appear
in the waves
for days
following the ship
that bore them
from their homes
When he was born, I said
look at his chin
a perfect replica of his father’s
they were the only words I could find
after two days of waves crashing
over me, a red rope seam
stitching me into my bed
Evening light glints
on a glass frame
and it becomes a mirror
that sailor’s face is gone
though the frame
cradles the photo
tight to itself
as if closed eyes
could return what was lost
We have been borne
into a strange land
of twilight hallway stumbles
my milk-heavy chest
pulls me to the sound
The faces in the waves
fade eventually
their memories filled in
by momentum
like I wash forward
into uncharted territory
his sweet smell in my nose
soft, new skin against mine
the ship can choose
its own direction


Pulling Pieces

The last remaining house on Holland Island in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, built in 1888, collapsed in 2010 due to the island’s erosion
How long you sat, gazing westward,
your glassy eyes reflecting the sunset,
sighing at high tide.  Who would have thought
the ocean could be thirsty, could lap
at soft shores of mud and silt
until they melted away.  Pulling pieces,
one board at a time, a nail rusted, a headstone
smoothed and bleached, toppled over;
each window a gasping breath.
Fishermen lived here, built their boats here,
gathered shad and oysters here until
the ocean encroached: each lick of wave
erasing their footprints as the shoreline gave way.
You saw children born in your rooms,
felt their feet patter on your wooden floors.
You held their grief when elders passed,
carried it once everyone had gone.
One by one, your fellows buckled, shuffled off
into that mouth filled with fish and brine.
sliding into water and floating away,
a funeral no one heard.  You stood on high ground,
sea birds taking refuge in your attic,
so much longer than anyone ever stood
on that island.
In the flotsam a final breath:
collapse, relief, stretched
in all directions.  Those walls
could no sooner hold up the sky
than contain those years alone.

Issa M. Lewis is the author of Infinite Collisions (Finishing Line Press, 2017) and a graduate of New England College’s MFA program. A runner-up in the 2017 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize and 2013 winner of the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, her poems have appeared in Jabberwock, Panoply, and others.