Jeremy Proehl


My father hauled a dead sea turtle
from a beach in the Florida Keys
             he coveted that shell,
             he’d seen one on a restaurant wall.

I was not allowed to watch, but
I tried to see my father over the dunes
             sand spurs in my feet
             I pushed upward
             over gentle curves of sand
             to see the gutting of that sea turtle
             wondering how life was removed.

             Flies everywhere,
                          do they kettle or simply swarm over death?

I did not know            I was too young.

The angles of my father’s wrist —  
             he held the knife
             his bones and tendons 
             rippling under his skin

cutting, and cutting
             scraping flesh from shell
              finalizing death.

My father worked for hours
     in the Florida sun
         I watched, and watched
                   to understand this man, I’d never
                            seen so violent and destructive.

My father never divorced my mother, but
             she left him
             he left her
                            the chaotic kettling cycle of a relationship:

One would return, 
             then the other 
                          only to repeat: leave – return – leave…
             cutting words
                          sharp angular words

That shell hung on our wall for years
             seeming to decay with the marriage.

There were no hills of sand to hide behind, only hollow doors
             no sand spurs to remind me that I had feelings
                          no sounds of the ocean or seagulls 
                             to cover 
                                                      the gutting.

I sold that shell to a neighbor kid for fifty cents.

Jeremy Proehl’s poems have appeared in: Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center’s Edith Chase Symposium, Hessler Street Fair, and #ThisIsCle Poetry Anthologies, Headline Poetry & Press, Ink Sweat & Tears, Poetry Pea, Muleskinner Journal, and The Westchester Review spring 2022 issue.  Proehl also has a poem coming out in The Grindstone, spring 2022 issue. He was mentioned in the August 2019 issue of The New Yorker. Proehl has attended workshops at Bread Loaf (Vermont and Sicily), Napa Valley, and Lost Lake. He regularly attends the biennial Dodge Poetry Festival.