"Oracle" won first prize in the best free verse poem category from the Indiana Collegiate Press Association's Literary Magazine Competition in April 2013. The poem was published in Red Cents, 2012, the award-winning creative arts journal of the Goshen College English Department.

When you were twenty, you almost drowned
on a hot beach in India, where even the spine
of the coast had spices woven into its sands.

You had learned to stay afloat in the cusp of a wave,
how to be held, carried along. When your legs lost count
of the kicks and you thought you would sink with your

dear one, you tipped a face back toward the sky,
and saw the riddled multitudes of every good thing –
the ribs of clouds, fingernails of God bright as crescent stars.

After the human chain that brought you to shore,
the slick tanned arms of the ayahs, men sucking
together quick as tentacles, you did live. In fact

you shook yourself out all over the world,
learned to cup your own hands on piano keys,
marvelous teeth that you could bend into any shape.

When you are finally tired, I sit with you on a beach
in June. The sand sleeps. We watch teenagers jump off a dock,
flinging seawater into their open beers. I pull up next to your lap,

too old to sit there but my hand on your knee anyway,
and the hard gauze of the lake aligns itself
to the backdrop of the blue.

Your lungs are clean, no hand tying knots
in your chest. You stand up strong and lithe
and skirted, join the fish that flit bone-clean

in the shallows. I want to link our arms together,
have the urge to twist and meld into a rope to pull you
back in but you raise your hand. Now you have gills.

Break the body of yourself and dive beneath.
The water's swollen hands reach to touch the nine a.m. stars,
lucid pockets of the sky, a wind to dip your toes in.

About the Author

Kate Stoltzfus

Kate Stoltzfus is a third-year English/writing and Journalism double major at Goshen College. Her work has appeared in Goshen College's Red Cents and Broadside. She has interned at Beacon Press in Boston and will work this summer for The Sun newspaper in Kendallville, IN as part of the Indiana Press Association's Pulliam internship program. She still drinks tea at her keyboard even after a damaging spill.