the taste of salt

Sestina written for a creative writing class

I was born on our island, on a cliff above the waves.

I had a warm family, but I loved my older brother

The most. Jack took good care of me, raised me, and I thought he was the salt

Of the earth. I still remember all those trips to the sea,

Where we would ferry in the old truck the long way down to the water.

The vista reflecting an ocean behind my glowing eyes.


We would swim in the sand, and bury ourselves the tide. My eyes

Squinting at the stormy sky, open wider beneath the gray waves

Than above. I felt at home in the clammy water

Like all of us old world islanders did. Like my brother

Did. We were at home in the icy sea,

At home within the cleansing salt.


Those days, swimming through the embrace of salt,

Soaking into my mind and my heart and my eyes.

Those days were the best of my childhood, in that baptismal sea.

We found love and communion and salvation within the waves,

And I remember, so clearly, my older brother

Picking me up in his strong arms and throwing me high up so I'd splash down big in the water.


Before I was grown, Jack left us, and crossed the water,

Sailed across the burning salt

To find another home. My brother

Went to find his own ocean, leaving me to dam my weeping eyes.

He ripped a piece of my heart with him into the infinite waves.

I could never follow, never bring myself to leave my lonely sea.


I grew beside the sea,

And now I'm fully grown, never apart from my heart in the water.

I found a husband here, and brewed a family, made a home surrounded by waves.

But news floated to me, across the unforgiving sea,

and brought the corrosive salt

Bubbling up through my lungs and my heart and my eyes.

The harsh world had killed my brother.


The body drifted to us some months later, that thing-that-used-to-be-my-brother.

We held the wake on the cliff aside the quiet sea.

Serpents writhed behind my wet eyes as

We wrapped his body, weighed it down, and tipped it off the cliff into the water,

Old island tradition. His skull filled with funeral salt,

He sleeps forever beneath the waves.


One day, she will bring me to him, drown me deep aside my brother within her heartless waves.

I am fated to be interred beneath, eyes and mind and heart forever preserved in holy salt.

Can you hear the water? In my stormy dreams, she sings to me softly; she sings me the mournful song of the sea.

The End

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