Mairead Kilgallon/ Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT

English Teachers: Jeff Schwartz 


How I Became Part of the Sea

 

I say I am going for a run.
And I do. I run, all right.
My sneakered feet dislodge dirt,
throw my exertion into the road
and push me forward with the
earth’s resistance.

When the packed dirt loosens and turns
into sand, I stop running.
Warm blood hums loudly enough
to drown out the cold, but I stuff my hands
in my pockets anyway.
I look up. In front of me, like I have arranged it
on a picnic blanket, is the sea.

The waves throw spray,
rejoicing in the December wind and white sunlight.
I remember when I would strip off
my socks and sneakers, when my bare toes
would churn the simmering sand until it cooled
into something more tolerable.
Now I step onto the untouched
carpet of beach leaving footprints that are more like
sneakerprints.

I snap some pictures. Who wouldn't?
The clouds cradle the light,
and sun breathes life into the crests of waves.
I can see where Poseidon got the idea for
his gift of horses.
Clouds stand like a blue-gray wall along the horizon,
and the sun balances on its silver edge.

I stand just shy of the surf, hands still in pockets.
The wind’s cold fingers tug strands of hair
out of my ponytail, they squeeze my ears,
my cheeks, my nose.
The sun pools in my eyes; it is mirrored
in rainbows on the water.
If someone could see me now, I think they would stop
and stare, if only for a little while,
at the statue stuck in the sand:
a freezing girl with a face of fire.

The sun sinks, slowly melting onto the other side
of the clouds, where I imagine it dripping slowly
into another sky, setting fire to someone else.
I stand until the last handful of sun is sucked
out of sight. The wind wraps its arms around me,
a faint song on its edges.
It sounds like a goodbye, or a thank you, or a call to stay
just a little while longer. So I do.

Eventually, when all that is left of the sun is
the line of brightness topping the clouds, I turn to leave.
But before I do, I take one last, long look at it all:
clouds, sky, sea. Wind presses into my eyes,
but I do not blink. The call lacing the cold air strengthens.
Salt water saturates my lashes, is torn from me
by the wind. Drops race off my bright cheeks.
They shine like watery stars, illuminated by
the dying fire in my face.
When they fall, the waves swallow them
like they would anything else.

A smile stretches my tear-streaked, numb mouth.
The wind still calls, but I turn my back.
Minutes later, my “run” is over.
I sit on the steps to the side door of my house,
in an eddy that wind struggles to reach.
I listen to my breath and I think about those drops
of salt water I added to the sea.
A final drop is startled out of me when suddenly
a gust rushes out of nowhere, taking an impossibly
sharp turn and arriving like a slap in the face, like a reminder.
I burst to my feet. The call is all around me now,
lilting, singing.
I tilt my head to the sky
and answer.