Cathexis Northwest Press
HOW TO LIVE BY THE SEA; NOT ROSES; SPELL
By: Jill Moffett
HOW TO LIVE BY THE SEA
Butterfly clam bioindicates
like a boss.
that swash zone life
that bivalve life
haricot de mer
you complete me
languid beachy vibes
is part industry
At Topsail Island,
cocooned with rented quilts
against the chill
of separate bedrooms,
my body rearranged itself
– caterpillar that I am.
swells with residues
I can hear her now her
shell wings pressed together
mauve for no reason
digging into the sand.
“Que sera, sera! Come on in, the water’s fine!”
You little rascal you.
Not roses, with their perennial
promise of prize-winning blooms.
What I adore is weedy, wild.
Goldenrod, chickweed, purslane:
especially on a spring day
of scraping children’s bloody bodies
from their classroom floor
I know how it feels to be untended
wild as I’ve been
throughout these wooly years.
I love a good rewilding but if I were a rose
I’d be fabric petals and green plastic stem.
Why not pretend, I’d say.
Why not pretend that everything’s okay.
Make a list of the slights, betrayals, and regrets,
the resentments and what makes you howl with the unfairness of it all
like how your mother didn’t love you
way back then. Take the scraps of lined paper and set them ablaze
by the flame of blood red candles.
Vow to take your power back.
Lash three found sticks together, twigs harvested from the yard,
all three patched with lichen blots,
spindly and wild, released by lean-trunked pine trees.
Use an arm’s length of scratchy kitchen twine.
I take back my power from the babies
I take back my power from the war
Nothing compares to our babies
Nothing compares to the war
Now gather up some other things and plant them in the ground.
Fall on your knees.
What grew took many seasons, one spring and then another
one spring and then another and another until
forgiveness showed up when it wanted to, as if by magic
an uninstructed act of creation.
a seed a seed the sea.
Jill Moffett is a poet, writer, teacher and collage artist. She has a PhD in Gender Studies and an undergraduate degree in English. She’s lived in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, and Iowa City, but now she calls Chapel Hill, North Carolina home. Her poems have been published in The Cortland Review, The Headlight Anthology, and Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her first chapbook, Border Crossing, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2019.