how to be an ocean

by Ella Standage

1. begin as the laughter of stars. as ice.
waltz lazy orbits around the rock with no name
and watch, and watch. here; a planet is being born.
a heartbeat starts—hydrogen gasps—you melt.

2. becoming water is like the pitch of your voice changing
overnight. an ache when you say your old name out loud.
your songs are different now: muffled from the sea-floor,
and when the moon calls, you learn the steps of the dance.

3. the moon winks flirtations / and you reflect them back.
the moon whispers in abalone / and you reply in chalky white.
at night she tugs at you, rumpling the tides like sheets
and curling into a blurry crescent until your waves soften.

4. and one day a voice says wódr or ὕδωρ or aqua or water:
which means being a horizon dreamt in blue, which means
crests of wave reaching for the moon, storm and still and anything
inbetween, because sea-slosh sounds the same to every ear.

5. a girl stands on the ocean and does not drown. you draw
the shape of her name in coastlines, give her shells and seasalt.
she will ask you how to be an ocean / and as the tide comes in
you will laugh and say my first breath was a flood.