Shark Attacks in Unlikely Places


Featured photography by Jay Waters.


Headlines scream that the killer remains

at large, great white cruising off unfamiliar

coastline, as if a remorseful shark

ought to turn itself in, offer restitution

while authorities trot out tired lines

from a seventies creature feature. Unprovoked,

they say, as if we know enough of the sea

or anyplace to make that determination.

All I know is that Gran never let us swim

out in the bay, only watched from the cliff top

at low tide while we searched for sand dollars,

dozens of them, our riches, and counted buoys

and green clad islands. The land belonged

to our ancestors, but the sea belonged only

to itself, and I worshipped its independence,

the silvered threat of its depths.

At twelve, I started to bleed during that week

by the sea, salt and iron and humiliation

staining the bobbles on a white bedspread.

I washed it with hand soap and some tears,

sister and cousin helping me shift the heavy

guilt of wet fabric and drape it on the line.

Like a shark, Gran always sensed trouble,

circled it sharp-eyed and slow to forgive.

Her long tide turned in a century, shadows

looming too long to outrun. Time circles

like a shark, blood calling it to the feast.

Like mermaids, we three girls perched

on a boulder as big as a playhouse

and built imaginary cities from clay we dug

barehanded from beneath a crust of shattered

shells and bits of shale thin and round as coins,

perfect for skimming or setting up a fairy

economy. We pretended to spot sharks

and sometimes saw seals, selkie-dark heads

rising wet and smooth in the deep waters

off the point, where starfish cling to slabs

of rock shaped like fantastic submarines.

When I try to open my eyes underwater

salt stings, and my feet stir up silt

in green-brown clouds. Whatever lives

beneath the surface stays beyond sight

and a shark might as well be a horseshoe

crab making its paleological path

along the bottom. Once, at the aquarium

in Boothbay Harbor, I stood next to a tank

like a backyard pool and let my hand hover

over the surface. A dogfish, smallest kin

of the local shark family, lifted its head

from the water to brush my fingers,

and then my son’s, over and over.

Maybe it was curiosity, or the electric

charge of life to life, ampullae of Lorenzini

receiving the joy I broadcast at our acquaintance.

Soon I will be a grandmother, and I promise

to tell the children to swim in the cove. Chill

waters will pebble their flesh and turn their lips

blue, but the curling pull of undertow will never reach

their fragile limbs, and seaweed will not slide

around thin wrist or ankle and hold them deep

until their lungs fill and their laughter only reaches

me as the whisper of ghosts, barely heard

under the screech and clamor of gulls. No shark

will taste their tender flesh, nor pull them

out beyond land, to the true deeps. The wind carries

decay in invisible arms, carcasses lifted

on the tide and bloating in summer’s eye.


Shy and nocturnal, Jennifer Crow has rarely been photographed in the wild, but it’s rumored that she lives near a waterfall in western New York. You can find her poetry on several websites and in various print magazines including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Uncanny Magazine, Liminality and Kaleidotrope. She’s always happy to connect with readers on her Facebook author page or on twitter @writerjencrow.

Jay Waters is a photographer and writer from McCalla, Alabama. Jay’s emphasis is on simplicity and serendipity, so all of his photos are from his phone, with minimal processing. Jay looks for the happy coincidence of life, light and camera. Jay's photos have been published a number of print and online journals, most recently in The Dallas Review, Saw Palm, Florida Literature and Art; and Passengers Journal. More of Jay’s work can be found at noodlephotos.com

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