Mythologies of the Deep

                                        I want the body 
                                blue in its skin
to forget 
to tread water in open sea—
                                don’t want the drown 
                                        so much as sink
                                        so much as stop 
Boundaries can be needs—can be keep the waters in check—
           can be I don’t want 
                                            to go there yet.
           I’m not talking only oxygen. 
                      I’m saying I want to pry 
                      the body open at its base,
     like a bivalve hinged
                                       and waiting.
                                 How soft is that raw muscle on the tongue?
                                 What is 
           When the sea beast swam 
                                           hard to the surface to feed
                                 the kayaker raised his paddle
                                 to push off the great tongue.
When he told me this the sun was still 
low on the horizon, but I was already forming
                      crystals on my scalp.
                                 I thought of Jonah tossed into the sea.
                                 I thought of all the other people like him
           swallowed by beasts,
                                 sent by some god or ghost it is
           almost all the same.
                      But after he told me
                      I did not dive into the water to wash 
                                                     the salt from my skin
or high hail it to shore sore afraid.
                                           Would you believe 
                                                                 I wanted all the more
                                           to see that beast?
Someone once said 
                                           we tell ourselves 
                                           stories in order to live—
                                 I tell myself 
                                                    to believe.
                                 I want the body whole to know 
                      the drift and drowse of immersion,
                      and also the prick of effort 
                                           collecting on the skin—
                                                                                 the salt
                                           that does not know distinction
                                           that forms
     on the body’s surface—
                those hard, precise prisms.


Copyright © 2017 by Amanda Hawkins. “Mythologies of the Deep” originally appeared in The Missouri Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.