On the Skagerrak Sea, with child

by Ellora Sutton

“It appears to me impossible that I should cease to exist, or that this active, restless spirit, equally alive to joy & sorrow, should only be organised dust … sometimes, when the sea was calm, I was amused by disturbing young star fish which floated just below the surface.” – Mary Wollstonecraft

In the waves I see my body and his, the coast
the crags, all the cliff-clinging flowers that grow
through willpower alone, defying reason.
In the spume I see my shoulder blades, the place
where I rolled up against the door and wouldn’t move,
a comma, a breath, the power of my lungs and tongue.

I haven’t seen anything like it since Paris, where the streets
flooded with glass, blooded with freedom. I tasted it there.
The atomies in the air are tarred with sunlight, a shoal of fish
pulsing into the shape of a larger future. That is fraternity.

The women on the shore showed me how to do it,
how to bandage my babe to my body, to wear her
like a talisman. Her little sharp nails make moons of my skin
as we crest the waves or cleave the waves, as I pull herring
after pickled herring from the jar like a metaphor for Parisian silver.

I swear by the starfish at my fingertips: my shoulders are hers,
this fresh blue is hers, all this howling eternity – hers. My daughter.

The wind shatters my face and, alive, I do not look to see how beautiful she is.