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.
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
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…
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
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.