how the salt helps heal us even as it stings

In the Absence of Ocean
Alison Townsend

In the absence of ocean
I wash myself in the salt of your body,
whether arching up and up to meet you
as you ride above me, intent as a swimmer
cresting a wave, or lowering myself
upon your surge and swell, as open
to possibility as the sea cave
I discovered and swam in as a child.

It is the most ancient of movements,
this rising, breaking, and falling
that moves through us like water, simple
as our bodies which are so largely salt.
But I had not thought to know it again,
the small boat of my life broken up,
broken into, everything familiar
smashed to pieces against the rocks.

It was all wind-chop and ice-swirl
and I was barely surviving, treading
the fathomless dark, fighting the currents,
forgetting the lesson of surrender undulating
in the lift and sway of kelp.

Then you were there and recalled
something of the ocean inside me
as I recalled something of the ocean
in you – how the salt helps heal us
even as it stings, tears welling
unexpectedly in my eyes
as your lashes quiver
and your breath comes quickly
in short, shallow gasps
that are somehow mine too

as we move together
like wind upon water,
like sea grass or dolphins,
the divine surge
and current of swell
blessing us, making us whole.

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