My Mother in the Ocean

My mother in the ocean, the one who is blue-green and waits, sighs and tells me she loves me after all. I have come here again, standing beneath the forever sun, my ankles in the froth that stirs in circles, to put my hand in the sand and pull up all of the truths that I have forgotten. Being here, my skin just beginning to burn, my eyes getting tired from looking and looking, is coming home.

My mother has never been forgotten, never been left behind or neglected, as some mothers are. She whispers and laughs and sees inside me. I pick up a stone that becomes my ocean stone, which now has its place in a little alabaster box with a crack in the lid. It has the taste and smell of the sea, and it means I can never forget.

I grew up going to the beach, sitting long hours, my eyelids low to watch the waves, my ears only knowing the language of the breaking water and the screeching gulls. Such peace, such knowing, leaving unafraid and undoubting and going back to the days of wandering and searching. It is there that I know my mother, know my insides and know my past and future as totally as my present. Mother walks the sands, no footprints but as phantom, she walks.

My mother in the ocean shows me what I can do. She turns it all inside out and upside down, and there is no looking away. The waves lap and move and make my head swim. I am home, within myself. I smell the salt and lick my lips. I don’t imagine mermaids or sea monsters. I don’t look to the edge where the sky meets the water, looking for sails and other people waving back to me. The water swirls here, and ties my legs up in it. I look in the blue, in the green, in the black of the sea.

In the blue, in the green, in the black of the sea, I watch my mother who held me in her womb, die from a disease she did not ask for. I watch her disappearances, of hair, of mind, of heart, and my tears mix with the sea, and turn blue, green, black. I watch to see me, just a girl, stupid, naive, or maybe just a girl, against the mind of someone wishing to destroy. I see my grandmother, an old woman whose face tells a story in every line and ridge. Only one regret, but enough to change a lifetime. And just an old woman now.

My mother, the one who held me in her womb, is here by the ocean too. She sits with her knees up and watches me. Child, am I okay, she asks and already knows because she has never left me.

Mothers and daughters and the pain that sometimes seems to never go away. In each other’s eyes we see the reflection of a thousand women. I watch in the sea and try to place myself against them all. I try to see something different, but it is here that I have come to see only what is true. It is here that I will find it all and come home to it. I will leave nothing out, and wish nothing out.

My feet sink in the sand and as the water pulls away, I feel sand slipping, slipping, and now I am only standing on a small lump of wet earth. And only still, I listen, and I watch, and what I see is all I ever knew. My mother in the ocean knows every story and has tasted every tear. She has laughed through it all and has never stopped embracing me and my other mothers. My mother in the ocean, loves me after all.

Originally published in The Beltane Papers, 2004
© Nellie Levine