“Y Under the Ocean” by Jennifer Savran Kelly

Issue 10 / Summer 2017

 

Y needs the ocean the way a thirsty tree welcomes a storm, lapping up waves even as they batter her, unraveling a thread here, a whole seam there. Too fast the water, the angry tide that comes and comes, while she stands ready to jump or go down, minding the time, calculating the height and force of the leap. Always minding. But today she went under, her flesh loosening and buckling under the pressure.

Y lived at the ocean before the waves, the still calm at the edge of the sea, and then she let them come, and once, in a storm, they almost succeeded in burying her. But the way she survives. When the tide comes at her, as it does, better to let it do what it will, she says. Better even to help with its reshaping of her, scratching away the pieces that can’t do anything right, achieving the form of someone who knows how to serve the water best.

So she helps tear the threads, the faulty patchwork, lets her skin hang limp. Lets her eyes go. After it passes, she puts herself back together, holds the parts in place and pulls the threads, but not too taut or it will hurt even more next time. Lately she has taken to putting herself back together the wrong way, an eye in the middle of her cheek, a finger sticking out from her shoulder. She has forgotten where the pieces go. And the more she forgets, the harder to get back to herself. Instead she waits for the waves, alone in a strange form that is both her and someone else. Someone the tide might spare.

People say she deserves better, but Y doesn’t know how to answer, can’t speak from the mouth on her knee, but if she could, she would tell them it’s okay, this undoing is her choice. Her own way to survive. Her own way to get closer to the moment when she will come up and just stay and stay.

Y had a name once but she rearranged the letters too many times, and before she could get them back in order, they began to disappear, one by one, until finally she was left with only a Y. The ocean still whispers her name, but she’s forgotten how to hear it.

 

Y needs

the ocean

the way a thirsty tree

welcomes a storm,

lapping up waves even as

they batter her,

unraveling a thread here,

a whole seam there.

Too fast the water,

the angry tide that comes and comes,

while she stands ready

to jump

or

go down,

minding the time, calculating

the height and force of the leap.

Always minding.

But today she went under, her flesh loosening and buckling under the pressure.

Y lived at the ocean before the waves,

the still calm at the edge of the sea,

and then

she let them come and

once, in a storm,

they almost succeeded

in burying her.

But the way

she survives.

When the tide

comes at her, as it does,

better to let it do what it    will, she says.

Better even to    help with its res hapin g of her, s cra tching aw   ay the pi e ces

tha t can’ t d o a   nything rig ht, achi   ev ing the for                 m of som         eone who

know s ho w to ser       ve th e water best       .

So she helps      t e a   r the t h rea   d   s, thefau l ty p     a tc hwo r k,

lets her s kin    ha n   g

l imp. Let s   h er                    eyes

go.

After it passes,

she puts herself back together,

holds the parts in place, pulls the threads,

but not too taut or

it will hurt even more

next time.

Lately she has taken to putting herself back together

the wrong way,

an eye

in the middle of

her cheek, a finger

sticking out from

her shoulder. She has forgotten

where the pieces

go. And

the more she forgets, the harder to get

back

to

herself.

Instead she waits for the waves,

alone in a strange form that is both her and someone else.

Someone the tide might

spare.

People say she deserves better, but Y doesn’t know how to answer, can’t speak

from the mouth on her knee, but

if she could, she would tell them it’s okay,

this undoing is her choice. Her own way to survive.

Her own way to get closer to the moment

when she will come up and

just stay and stay.

Y had

a name once

but she rearranged the letters too many times, and before

she could get them back in order,

they began to d

i

s

a

p

p

e

a

r,    one by one,

until finally she was left with only a

Y. The ocean still whispers her name, but

she’s forgotten

how to

hear

it.

 

Y has taken to lapping up threads, the knee, the mouth, the angry tide, reshaping the name, the strange form loosening and buckling. When the tide stands ready, better to rearrange where the pieces go, the ocean, the tide that might spare this undoing. Her choice disappearing one by one until, finally, she goes under.

Y lived scratching away pieces, eye, finger, shoulder. The way a thirsty tree helps to tear the moment, too many times and before she can get it back in order. She deserves her own way to survive, she says, her own way to come up someone else–herself. Instead, she can’t whisper, has forgotten both the height and the force and the Y. She has forgotten. The ocean.

And yet Y needs. A thread there, a whole seam here, lets her skin achieve parts, in place but not too someone. Today her flesh gets closer, survives the pressure before the waves next time the threads, her eyes unraveling and almost succeeded. But she’s burying and someone pulls her. Too fast the water in the middle sticking out from her storm while she comes and comes. Minding the time, always minding.

The form passes at her, the angry tide, comes together the wrong way, calculating waves even as they know how to hang limp. Jump or go down, better even or it will hurt more to answer.

Y once had a next time, a name for the waves, alone, putting together someone who will stay and stay. But she doesn’t know, and the more she forgets, people say the ocean in the still calm can’t pull anything but batter her. And the way she welcomes it, as it does, what it will, if she could.

She would tell them to get back to the storm, let them come, of her cheek, of the leap, the faulty patchwork, the harder, the better, but Y she was left. Still the letters. Tell them. It’s okay, but only with. But she.

 

 

Jennifer Savran Kelly lives in Ithaca, NY, where she writes and binds books. She has written for film and print, and her fiction has appeared in Green Mountains Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts (Online Companion), and elsewhere. She has recently completed her first novel with generous support from the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Find her on her website and follow her on Twitter @savranly.

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