Hello! Nice to be here! I figured since I’ll be on the site of one of the great poets I’ve met since moving to Virginia, that I would share my one and only Poem-like thing. I guess they call it a prose poem? Whereas it doesn’t have structure, has too many words and none of them rhyme?
Yeah, I don’t know either.
Tamela J. Ritter
Rockland Maine May 28, 2006
Half way down the jetty between the shore and the Lighthouse, she hears their call. She approaches the water’s edge and listens. The water slapping against the rock whispers to her, join us; join us where you belong.
She had heard the water’s call before, in Lincoln City Oregon, years before. She had gone to the sea to end it all. Her creativity was too weak to imagine living knowing that this was it—there was nothing else. Weeks before, she had lost a child. That’s not right, she didn’t lose it, she knew where it was, what had happened, it had happened before. More precisely, her own body massacred the living, breathing life it was supposed to have protected.
Now, years later on the other side of the country, she hears them again. She’s not paying attention when she first hears them calling. She walks along the wide jetty that is more like the boardwalk of a shoreline tourist trap then like the ones of her youth in Oregon, where the ragged cliffs of rock filled her and her brothers with bravado and excitement. Now her bones have become more conscious of the precarious terrain she would have bounced down years ago. She now calculates the risk, dodging the many white dots of seagull excrement.
As a child she would sit by the river, watching her brothers pull salmon out of the water and listen to her grandmother, as she braided her hair, tell the stories of how the world began from that very river when Turtle swam to the bottom and pulled the earth up, one piece of sand at a time. Even then, she imagined she was special. Special things were going to happen to her. She had forgotten this calling. Until she came to the water and they whispered to her. She wished for her grandmother, she would have known what to do. We’re here for you. You belong with us.
Belong, that word rings in her ears, as her solitary figure watches the girls fish on the other side of the jetty in a language that is all their own, with bare feet and painted toes.
Belong, as the couple walks by holding hands as if they would float away if they were to let go, even for a moment; the man wears a Red Sox hat, the girl a string bikini top and short cutoff jeans.
Belong, as a family walks by. The father with a plump-legged toddler on his shoulder, her pigtails bouncing as he jumps up and down to send her in squeals. The mother standing beside them with another small child holding her hand, a small fishing pole grasped in his taffy-sticky fingers.
She watches the waves, looking for what was under there, where exactly it was she belonged. How easy it would be to just jump in. What would these people think? She takes off her shoe, approaches the edge, turns, and looks around. No one notices. She’s had this happen before as well. Many times. Invisibility, she believes, is another thing that makes her special. Sometimes she likes when she’s invisible, most of the time, though, it makes her feel ignored, insignificant.
“What will happen when I join you?” she whispers softly to the only thing that listens. Maybe she’ll be able to swim to the bottom and create another world one piece of sand at a time. A world to reunite her people, where her grandmother would join the children that were supposed to be hers, but this world, and bad plumbing, had ripped from her body.
She sticks her toe in and instantly her whole body turns to ice, she recoils. The mystic, dreamy father in her fights the rational, scientific mother side. She rethinks her options. I need air to breathe; she remembers, and I am a warm-blooded species. If she really belonged to them, they would know that, they would make the water more welcoming. She would feel bathed in its warmth and longing. As she sighs sadly and puts her sandal back on, she hides the tears in her eyes.
She feels someone watching, she is no longer invisible. A little girl with unruly long brown curls and familiar milk chocolate eyes, smiles at her and hands her a rock. She watches the girl pick up another rock and with determination and fingers too small for the stone she wields, plops it into the sea. The water comes up, splashing them. The girl giggles as the woman smiles at her. The water seems warmer as it tickles their toes.
As the woman throws her rock, she is joined on the other side by a boy a few years older than the girl. They are obviously siblings and look like children she should know; their features as familiar as her own. His rock is bigger, a boulder, and when he heaves it into the water they are all enveloped in warm, soothing water.
They laugh and the woman notices that again, no one notices her, notices them. It’s okay now, she reasons, maybe she has made that jump after all.
Tamela J. Ritter was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, her debut novel From These Ashes was published in March 2013 by Battered Suitcase Press. She now lives and works in Haymarket, Va. You can find her on Twitter or on Facebook.