by Anne-Marie Thompson

Take your time getting here, I’m busted.
The day after Christmas, my husband and I
drive to the island, where my brother Willy
naps after running calls all day and night.
While he was pumping 40 ecstasy pills
out of an arsonist’s stomach, we were passing
bread and lighting candles in my parents’ church.

Now we cross the causeway into thick sea fog—
late-December heat wave scraping a cool ocean.
We navigate by brake lights and sudden, partial
landmarks. The haze lifts near the harbor,
where the hulking skeleton of a cruise ship
flickers for a moment, then disappears again.

Later, we get the firefighter’s tour: the fancy
alarm systems; the death traps; the suicides.
The small house of the imbalanced, always-naked
man who sat on piles of his own shit and called
the department so he’d have visitors. He died
last month. The island’s full of ghosts, Willy says.
Started with the 1900 storm. 6,000 bodies floating.

When the waters rose, right before the orphanage
roof collapsed, the nuns tied children to their robes
with clothesline, the lost clutching the lost.
We pull up on a dune at the westernmost edge
of the island, and Willy points at the billowing wall
of white. We trust that this is really the end,
and that the Gulf is really there, just beyond it.

ANNE-MARIE THOMPSON’s poetry collection, Audiation, won the 2013 Donald Justice Award. She works as a technical writer for a software company and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband.