portion of the artwork for Rachel Wiley's poetry

Swimming Lessons for Landlocked Girls
Rachel Wiley

The first time you see the ocean
the sun peeks from cloud cover
a reassuring “go”
You become the biggest God
of the tiniest rockslides underfoot
all the way to the swollen sand shoreline
where cold water kisses Ohio toes electric
not even the screech and swoop of gulls can dissuade
the rolling of pant legs
the stumbling over shell fragments
and pebble push into the footbed
that gives way to soft and squish of seaweed

The first time you are knocked over by a wave
You will stand up sputtering
fist drawn
and spend the afternoon punching waves
and playing dead
seeing how far home the waves might dare sweep you
a feverish doggy paddle back to horizon
when it looks too much like land.

I promise once
and now
that I rode a wave so high
I saw the place where the earth curves.
If you ever see that space
swim towards it.
When the faces on shore
try to coax you back to your legs
inform them that you are now a mermaid
when they remind you of your beige and dry day job,
your cat,
your bills
tell them mermaids have very few expenses
that you’ve been hoarding sand dollars
and the cat never much liked you anyway.
They will invoke the name of your love
a tow rope to pull you ashore
do not be surprised when you find a pearl of resentment
in your stomach for him
Though, really you should know by now
that he would run away with you to the bottom of the sea
if only you cleared the sand from your throat and asked.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 38 | Fall 2012