Swimming in the sea as a child
I was enchanted and somehow repelled
by the water: glassy smooth, inevitable.
I could see the impurities, though
not in a disturbing way, but in a way
that made me understand,
this was living water.
The salty taste taken by mistake
when gulping for air after an
insistent wave made me feel
both infected and accepted.
Tidepools and their infinite mystery:
what will happen if we poke that
squishy thing, or try to catch
the sea star or baby octopus.
Lingering far too long
until we had to hurry back to shore
lest we be caught by the tide.
Walking on the beach
was a fascination because
one never knew what would
wash up; shells, shark eggs,
kelp in various measured lengths,
sticky tar that accumulated on
our feet, pieces of jellyfish,
smoothed stones, some with
holes already pre-drilled,
and beautiful sea glass, rendered
harmless by the buffeting of the
endless sea and sand, a jeweled
treasure beautiful enough to keep
forever. Where the pieces went
were a mystery, but by the end of
the summer, they were all gone with
the holed stones and dried bits of kelp
as well as the fishy smelling paper bag
we’d kept under the bed.
Driftwood was a favorite
because we learned early on
that driftwood fires burn in colors,
as if they’ve soaked up the colorful
second life of an undersea fantasy
in their post-tree career.
They stored their story as minerals,
making the wood into brittle, smoothed
and randomly shaped pieces that were just
what was wanted of a cool night.
Being that close to so much life
is an emotional thing for a shy kid,
a thinking child who immersed herself
overlong in books and fairy tales.
Trying to express the appreciation
for the life of the sea, the great
immensity of life as a whole and
as the little bits we spied from here
on land, and not finding any words.
The best response I ever got to my
rumination was something like,
“Ya know, fish pee in the water, haw haw.”
Not what I was looking for,
and fragile feelers swept back,
internalizing frustration with my
inability to share the welled-up
emotion. I had to wait to be taken
seriously, when as an adult I
shared the introspection that has always
been part of me, and people
have no idea what I mean,
shake their heads, and remark about
the fish again.
Written for Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog – prompt: Fishy.