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