You’re telling her jokes as you walk through shallow
water, star grass and white plants with yellow centers
floating amongst potato chip bags as bright and rainbow
as dying stars, you keep missing red soda caps among
too-red algae, you are so tightly wrapped around leaving
me that you don’t notice I’m still trailing behind.
Breakfast near the marsh beds, the ocean twills, surf
is clear for now, but tomorrow we’ll rise again, early
with trash bags to clear discarded items from surfers
and parties, do you remember the time you found old
flower necklaces wrapped around fish necks, do you
still love wearing lip-gloss the color of coral reef, it’s
these early mornings when the house is still filled with
life and we’re drinking coffee and I think to myself,
you might still love me, but I’ll never ask. Late nights
we sit on the porch eating burnt strawberry cake, puffy
pastry twists, I hate the raspberry-hued stomachs of
crabs, I hate the sharks feeding by the steps who act
like no one can see their appetite, but danger is near
and your newest crush forgot her anklet by the shore.
Disassociating by the sink, wondering if you still take
your eggs the same way, do you know all the words
for sugar, can you feel the memory of my jellyfish
sting beneath your fingertips, still the burn, still my
mind tosses itself back to the surf, I used to cast spells
with the sand, wrote your name in the high tide line
and the sand crabs knew I was losing track of myself
they didn’t care, I’m not sure I even do, now. The surf
arrives and disappears every day at the same time. The
ocean tries again to heal itself, tossing bleached reef
skeletons to my feet, the shoal reminds me of your
hair, I’m forgetting what color your eyes are, I’m
forgetting my own name. Do I know me, anymore?
March stacks frost on top of the roof. Clear blue of
the sky, the birds have disappeared, we remain with
mouths and hands and huckleberry galettes, there are
so many people on this earth I could care for yet I only
ever want you. I don’t know that I care when she
asks to borrow my eyeliner. Says, we don’t need to
take care of the beach today, everyone is going for
walks on the ice paths, would I like to come along?
she offers me her gloves and scarf, ignores the heat
in my face, what do I want, will there be owls, will
one of you catch me if I slip, linger by the mangroves
and I’ve brought wishes in my pockets, but I won’t
let them out until it’s time.
Soon: rain. Ice, full of broken shell pieces, a twenty-
five cent rubber ball from the supermarket down
the street, a droplet of blood from when I woke too
early, found the two of you quiet in the kitchen booth
and walked the path alone, don’t worry, I’ve always
been good at this part.
When I was a child, I thought parrot fish could sing.
I preserved sand dollars like they were pale, hot coins
I drowned my feelings in the cove, but they came back
in lobster boxes, coated in iron and rusted root knots,
the sea wants nothing of my dreams, I rose like a tornado
or a woman and prayed to catsharks, took my past to
the drain, you said I couldn’t write an honest sentence
for the life of me, well how about I try. I am tripping
gently on the back paths as the others slide forward,
they are singing and dreaming and wearing coats
and I don’t know how to say goodbye, I grab onto
my life with claws and bites, I’ve even started saving
the trash from the surf, what was somebody thinking
tossing their shoe into the waves.
I will be honest from now on. I will find you in early
kitchen light, screw another frost walk, and we can talk.
I’ll show you where I’ve drawn the lines, say, look,
here’s where I was a parasite, I tied grass into knots
and locked myself out of my own heart. This isn’t
honest enough yet. Do you still want to sit near me
I have feelings for you that don’t warrant their own
poems. Soon she arrives, silt nails, and charms you away.
This poem was selected as the second place winner in our 2023 Seasick Competition. Go here to see the other winners: https://thetiderises.org/seasick
Sam Moe is the recipient of a 2023 St. Joe Community Foundation Poetry Fellowship from Longleaf Writers Conference. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Whale Road Review, The Indianapolis Review, Sundog Lit, and others. Her poetry book Heart Weeds is out from Alien Buddha Press and her chapbook Grief Birds is forthcoming from Bullshit Lit in April ’23. Her full-length Cicatrizing the Daughters is forthcoming from FlowerSong Press.