by Ella Standage

swimming, eyes closed. i want to see
how far i’ll get before my breath runs out
and all i am is ripples. the sea feels
impossibly shoreless, here in the middle
where the waves twist my body into
a question mark: can the ocean exist
without us trying to cross it?

if water could speak
                its voice would be wave-crests.
if wave-crests could laugh
                it would be in curlicues of foam.
if foam is water’s laughter
                its arguments are storms.
if water’s rage is storms
                ice is its silence.
if stillness is silence
                movement is sound.
if i swim into the movement
                what meaning will i hear?
if i hear half a conversation
                its words are said in ripples.
if i forget the ripples’ language
                their movement will mean nothing.
if i name you voice
                you will still only be ocean.

so i spoke to my side of the sea.
taught tides to carry my stories
to wherever all language washes in,
where waves pronounce hello
in a voice not quite mine.

what did the ocean say back?
                shades of blue enunciated in salt.
                clarified: this colour means joy.
                voices slipping over voices, water
                over water.
what do you want to hear?

there’s an end-of-the-world stillness
here at the bottom of the sea. if
there was light i would walk across
the ocean floor counting shipwrecks,
archives of miscommunication.

i look up through the blue window
to see a world like mine,
an inch to the left.

this is where the question runs out of air.
the ocean hums its still unbroken silence,
twists wave-crests into foam. i’m swimming
blind through my own voice. in this world’s
sea i have no body, only the ripples i leave