Water we won't touch

By Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Reunited after years apart,

my sibling is how I imagined

they would be, hair pink

and lit up like a highway flare—

a fire that always tries

to keep itself alive, even

in the rain, or as the tide rolls up.

For years my father had my sibling

water-locked, drug-spun—

surrounded by the Pacific

and saline-flushed needles.

And still my sibling burned.

When we were young,

my father used his hands

for everything. He used his hands

to describe how lightning

almost took him. He

and the lightning

the only bodies on the beach.

His feet smoked up, charred

on the bottoms, a spider-

web of fire spun as the storm

lashed onto shore. The sand

turned to silica glass around him.

My father has always been spared

and my father is the closest thing I know

to a sinner. What is the third degree

if not a near smiting?

Sometimes, I wonder

about the vastness of the ocean,

and how best to avoid its anger.

My sibling and I loved each other

most during storms. I know this.

When my sibling tells me—

after all these years—about

the pink lightning that hovered

over a town full of pink houses, I know

that we haven’t been totally beaten.

What is a family if not preparation?

We can smell a storm coming

before anyone. I swear

we can taste it rolling in.


Kayleb Rae Candrilli, “Water we won’t touch” from Water I Won’t Touch. Copyright © 2021 by Kayleb Rae Candrilli. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, coppercanyonpress.org. All rights reserved.