Learning to Swim When You Don’t Have Feet

By Mariah Manoylov

I step
Into the ocean.

The sky above me
Is like crumpled gun barrels

With fishy clouds
And pruny fingers.

The water is like your words
On my tongue

When you said that,
Ya know,

Brown eyes
Are beautiful too,

And,
Ya know,

Forests,
Like bodies,

Will grow again
After being burned.

The water is like you explaining to me
That they were wrong,

That the edge of the world
Does actually exist and

It’s behind bread crumb dreams
And tidal currents.

The water
Is up to my nose and I

Step.

Step.

Step.

Further.

Until I see my reflection
And it burns to open my eyes.

The water is like my breath
When I told you that

I love — 
hands.

Because
Fingers and bone built so many

Beautiful things in this world and
Of all the things they built

You are by far
The most beautiful.

I looked at you and saw
The prettiest sand castle.

The water is like your words
When you said that

Sometimes
You wish you could rain

Because you don’t want the clouds to feel
Alone

And,
Ya know,

Water can in fact
Shrink when frozen.

You were tired
Of living in ocean waves.

My eyes are like the water
When I looked at you and

Realized that someone can be
Both the island and the sea

And my hands could never build a ship
Big enough to carry you home.

The water is like my vow
To carve my feet into paddles,

And follow your rose petal path
Into the ocean.

I’m sorry if you wanted to be the only person
To jump off the earth.

But at least you won’t be 
Alone.

Mariah at Mesa Verde, CO