The Breaking of Coral by Marnie L. Parker

Growing up in a California beach town, I feel so intimately connected to this one by Marnie L. Parker. The brilliance of this poem is wrapped in the grimy details, the character’s inner life honestly reflected in the setting.


Photo Courtesy Benjamin Daniel Lawless

The Breaking of Coral

by Marnie L. Parker

In Long Beach a woman
clad in black sweater
and tweed skirt advances

toward the muddy dock, lights up
a Lucky Strike as the seaweed air
wraps around her flame and face.

The sun sets too early again:
she breaks skin bumping into corners
as flecked clay rose paint cracks

and the volume of scattered women’s
voices sway up and down with the ships.
She listens closely: Their voices

scratch like sharp coral beneath.
Small pieces, once beautiful, begin to break
toward the crust of the lithosphere.

She didn’t ask for this role: a woman in heels
and uneven seams, stepping on
a plank popping out of its grooves.


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