Atlantic Songs

by Matthew Johnston

I have always known saltwater as healer
               the way ocean washes over wound as remedy


Often I have gone to the shore of Atlantic
               gently sinking my body into ocean’s embrace
               letting the tides freely mingle with exposed tissue
               while listening to waves fall into each other,
               making music of their restlessness

There are times that I wonder about the sacred of Atlantic songs,
Imagining them the sound of ancestors that saw ocean as freedom,
               as escape,
               while tightly clutching prayers of rebirth
before plunging into ocean & filling lungs with Atlantic

Ocean carries ancestral screams—
               stories entwined in throats,
                              a haunting choir of last breaths

the ocean floor                an Atlantis of souls,
Left-behind bone becomes monument,
The water a viable coffin

Atlantic                wears trauma on its back,
               spine twists itself into shape of sacrifice
               With belly already lined with past offerings—
               Ocean becomes altar

I have always known that ocean brings healing
               but some wounds linger

Maybe that’s why ocean often breaks its silence,
               why the waves can be so unruly
               why god always troubles this water
               why the thought of home feels so tempestuous

I sink deeper into ocean, reveling in the gentle of this ritual
letting the salt mend me tender
               as spirits cloak me in their songs,

Call this divine                baptismal                as their souls wash over me

I try making ocean of myself to house such hallowed chorus
               I make epitaph of my bones in tribute
               and submerge within my blood in search of home
                                                            in search of restoration

In search of familiar melody
               rising from the mouth of Atlantic,
               a symphony of sweet sound
               swelling in ocean,
                              reminding me how sometimes
                              sacrifice is prelude
                                                            to healing

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