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  • Lis Sanchez

After a Difficult Voyage

After his long voyage in the penitentiary, Uncle Serafín spent

nights tossing on the shifting cot, his one open eye having words

with the stars. When the first gale lashed the twenty thousand blue

gum leaves, he leapt up and ran into the night, ribbonfish bouncing

off his back, through the waves of houses up to the ancient blue

gum our abu had planted, at last tremendous enough for Serafín

to gaze past the shipwrecked years to the days he learned to swim

in his mother’s belly. Before our shouts could reach him, the tree

swept him up. Up, up he swam, his bullhead pushing deep into

crashing branches. Between lightning bursts his crown breached

the boughs, a foot flashed its underbelly. The blue gum pitched and

howled, spat glistery fruit into night's roiling current; out it spouted

a school of sparrows, glinting like a fishy constellation; out

cartwheeled Serafín’s pajamas, top and pants swooping in contrary

arcs then tumbling together like trapeze acrobats. At last we

spotted Serafín whipping one-armed from the tree's topmost hand,

naked, slick, stars flicking his ankles. Hours and hours we watched

him kick and battle, except when we drowsed, up until the tree

crouched to the ground then sprang up, slinging him into the starry

stream. After brunch we found him gulping for air, swamped

on the road to the penitentiary. Don’t touch me, he spurted, and we

obeyed, forever. And, so as not to be carried off to some place

from which we couldn't swim back, we chopped down the blue

gum as well.

Lis Sanchez has writing appearing or forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Salamander, New Orleans Review, The Bark, Lunch Ticket Amuse-Bouche, The Boiler, Baltimore Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Writer’s Fellowship; Prairie Schooner’s Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing; Nimrod’s Editors’ Choice Award; The Greensboro Review Award for Fiction, and others.

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