The instant you plan to put your head into the water, your mother’s voice bells in
your skull don’t go getting on wild in the water, eh. They say at 32 you begin to
become your mother, and not a week past that birthday her admonition pulls your
body back from a juicy plunge into the Aegean’s seductive blue. In your childhood
she refused permission to any outings involving water; you think you a fish, she’d
say, and my heart can’t handle bad news. A woman now, you know the force she
feared, the way water can draw you out; how easy it is to go and go, and never miss
the earth beneath your feet until you need it; how sometimes, it gives you no way
back. You dive in anyway, the way she always has, headfirst and with a whoop of
glee. You know, too, what she loved about the sea—how it is impossible to be
burdened in it, how it can strip the body down to its purest, most joyful self. She
knew the salt kiss cravings in you: when you have to go, I will take you. You swim
out now, her voice looped around you like a lifesaver. There is nowhere you can go
that it will not find you.
LAUREN K. ALLEYNE is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues & Peepal Tree, 2019). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, and the Crab Orchard Review. Recent honors for her work include a 2017 Philip Freund Alumni Prize for Excellence in Publishing (Cornell University), the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, and a Picador Guest Professorship in Literature (University of Leipzig, Germany, 2015). She is currently the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an associate professor of English at James Madison University. Twitter Handle: @poetLKA
Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate.