Into the Riptide | The Best We Can Imagine Together

Into the Riptide

On the surface
the currents may look
almost silent, just a shimmer
in the flow. Underneath
are teeth waiting wide––
mousetrap-quick, snap
and bat, cat’s paw deft––
catching at keel and
rudder and oar

I too would conjure
a divinity for the relief
of having a name for my fear
were it not for all the
pre-existing options:
Poseidon and Neptune
Pontus and Triton
Charybdis and Scylla and Brizo

Did they know
when they spun the tales
of eddies in the healing pools,
did they know it is the movement
that brings life to the surface, that
it is change which revitalizes?

For all we know, Medusa may
have just been offering men their
deepest desire—to be hard
and unchangeable. Even he
who pursues pleasure melts to bones
at the Sirens’ feet when he refuses
to walk away, back into the wind

We must be willing
to lose it all, to be pulled under
learn to breathe with gills
but we may be surprised
at what we are allowed
to keep in the transformation
for the deepening is not just
in the furthest point down
one has braved or the upwelling
that rises to meet you but
in every floating moment
of the free dive into the dark

The Best We Can Imagine Together

If you wait long enough, I hear
the fireflies will start to blink in sync
though I’ve never seen this happen
My only trips to lightning bug country
were too early in the springtime
but I wonder—does sensation
stop at the edges of their own tiny bodies?
Or do those who flash together
feel the burn of their neighbor’s flame?

If you spend the night at sea
off the west coast of North America,
you may catch green flashes in the water,
green or sometimes an unnatural sort
of blue ––mercury flickering in the rain
I have witnessed this on the night watches
kept vigil with the ocean
as light flew through the air
off the tip of a dolphin’s fin
Minnows dart deep and leave
bright blazes in the water behind them
Nothing in the night needs
illumination to find its way

Is it painful to become the fire?
What sort of world is one where
light is the way the algae cries?
There is a shrimp, tiny as its name,
who flits so quickly through the water
the sound it leaves behind
turns luminous in its wake
Listen closely

About Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee, author of The Breath Between and Etude for Belonging from Fernwood Press, lives in Lafayette, OR, in a house at the edge of the woods. Her writing is often inspired by the space at the edge of things: her experiences as a hospice harpist, the year she spent traveling by sea, and the deep silence of her Quaker practice.

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