We built uneven cairns for the Atlantic,

stacked our lives like sea stacks, cosmic dust, slate.

We cheered on the waves as they swallowed

our footprints. I asked you not to go.

A sandpiper darted between black rocks,

petite legs patted the sand, left imprints

and the waves swallowed those too. I am

always trying to tell you about home.

About backyard cookouts, blue cupcakes,

starry skies, my body. But you moved

like you were afraid of the space you filled.

We added more rocks. You dove into the sand

came up empty. Mangroves are the winter home

of sleepy sandpipers. Your home is here:

gas station coffee. Guitar strings. Birch trees.

We used to wound ourselves in the same way.

You didn’t want to be a sandpiper

because you resisted the idea of home,

of being trapped. I handed you the last rock.

I danced with water and never drowned.

Wind urged you along as you stood to leave.

Your little rock teetered; I straightened it.


Tianli Kilpatrick holds a Master’s in creative nonfiction from Northern Michigan University and a Bachelor’s in creative writing from Allegheny College. She is an Asian-American writer covering topics that range from adoption to jellyfish to trauma. Her work has been published in TIMBER, The Portland Review, DIAGRAM, Iron Horse Literary Review, Sierra Nevada Review, and others. When she’s not writing, she’s riding horses or boxing. She lives and writes in Shrewsbury, MA.