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By Shara McCallum

You will leave your home:

nothing will hold you.

You will wear dresses of gold; skins

of silver, copper, and bronze.

The sky above you will shift in meaning

each time you think you understand.

You will spend a lifetime chipping away layers

of flesh. The shadow of your scales

will always remain. You will be marked

by sulphur and salt.

You will bathe endlessly in clear streams and fail

to rid yourself of that scent.

Your feet will never be your own.

Stone will be your path.

Storms will follow in your wake,

destroying all those who take you in.

You will desert your children

kill your lovers and devour their flesh.

You will love no one

but the wind and ache of your bones.

Neither will love you in return.

With age, your hair will grow matted and dull,

your skin will gape and hang in long folds,

your eyes will cease to shine.

But nothing will be enough.

The sea will never take you back.


Shara McCallum, "What the Oracle Said" from The Water Between Us. Copyright © 1999 by Shara McCallum. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: The Water Between Us (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999)

  • Living
  • Nature

Poet Bio

Shara McCallum
Shara McCallum was born in Jamaica to an African Jamaican father and a Venezuelan mother and moved to the United States with her family when she was nine. A professor of English and the director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University, McCallum is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work considers the intersections of race, gender, history, and personal identity; in an interview, she noted that "poetry helps me explore the ways we understand complex notions of identity, whether that's personal, familial, or cultural.” See More By This Poet

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