fine print

in water bodies

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careful i said to someone recently there are things in the water with trails that sting. they will wrap you in pain, bindings invisible to the eye, touchless to the fingertips you run across your body, frantic, searching.

you will spend such a long time thumbing for tender places. pull open maps google ancestry charts unravel on your therapist’s couch look at the mirror, stare for a long time at the small angles of your eyebrows thinking of where you came from.

that is what we are doing here. essaying how to place your fingers at the source of the pain how to untendril yourself from what trails behind, what clings to you, what you cling to.


picture what lives in the water. picture the portuguese man o’ war, the ridge of its back like a rippled fin above the water. its belly billows up through the surface, translucent, the skin taut, its blue alluring in the way that tangled things often are.
          below the waterline, luminous tentacles feather out under its body.
          people often think the man o’ war is a jellyfish, but it isn’t. a jellyfish is a single organism: its body is its own. the man o’ war is a siphonophore, a collection of organisms called zooids which band together to survive. they integrate and can no longer function independently, so we call them a single animal.
           a body made of many.
           in water bodies are multitudinous.

in the water we are wakes. ocean pushes back behind your body as you move but at the same time the tidal suck pushes forward / is pulled forward. the passage you make is a pulling back a pulling forward so what is the movement here? it sounds like a question with no answer but i need to know, need to understand what it means to come from somewhere, someone.

we can’t help it, can we. we tug at them with wonder with longing and always with some kind of pain that they made us and will leave us. is he bringing something with him / for you / pushing against his past  / churning forward toward you? small child, i cannot bear you in my arms, you are almost too much of the world to hold, too much of my heart, and yet i want nothing more than to hold you for the rest of your life, you
seed of me, you
waterway, you,
salt tide.  

t, when you traced back to his country / your country, watched the water when you left, watched the wake, was his past moving back through or forward into? i offer you this. if time is water is time the trail he makes toward you is both.  

a wave
moves against
its own skin.

stare at a wave long enough and i promise that you will not be able to name the direction in which it moves.


the edges of water converge into a lace of crumpled intersections and i find myself with a diagnosis of disorders that makes everything coming in and going out of my body a violent confusion. so i toss my body aside and swim. it’s just past the middle of winter and i’ve never especially liked the cold but mindless, thoughtless, i fall into it, and it turns out oceanwater is what i’ve been seeking. the shriek of blood howl of breath rip me out of the feelings i know and into euphoria. pricked red and blood-hot when i emerge, skin singing in the wind, and then i go back in, and it takes me a long time to name the reprieve for what it is – my body edgeless and temperatured to the sea, the relief of being at ease, belonging here, belonging in.

wherever i go in the world it is the sound of seabirds and the unfamiliar strew of stars that tells me i am far from home.

and it is clouds that make me feel loneliest
these things that should be familiar,
that take away the most breath.


have you spent much time thinking what happens when you find the end of the trail, the tendril, the thing that lies on the sand when the water pulls back. when you unwrap yourself / ravel yourself. whatever direction you have been going. have you thought about what happens when you get there.
           something trembles, shivers, when i try and think about it
           and then
           the breeze
           takes it away from me.
           perhaps as aching as it is to search, it is better than not having something to search for. i’m not sure. i don’t know your tides.

i’m trying to come back to you, t.
           to peer over your shoulders into the archives on that small island.
           to whisper my hand into yours so you know you’re not alone in searching for the tendrils that lead you home.

i’ve been chasing after them both, yours, mine, the fathers we come from
and they’re casting up seaspray, there with me and gone,
rising falling as we pass.
i don’t know how to think of the sea without grief, without knowing myself, without longing. where ever i am. always, ocean. its skin crossed with passages too many to see.