Ocean Songs for the Nursery
Josh once told me that he liked the ocean because when he went under a wave it reminded him that life doesn’t go on forever. The cradle of his body rocked to a hush-a-bye inches from the seabed. Life momentarily stilled while the smaller seas played a lillibullero. I liked the ocean, too.
In the years that followed the sea singing Josh its lullaby, I ended up very far from the ocean.
In a moment of quiet, I replicate Josh by sinking underneath the water in a claw tooth bathtub in Philadelphia, a key feature of crumbling row homes throughout all parts of the city. The sides of the tub sheathed by peeling lead paint and sheets of mildew. Tiles filled with grout that resembles the slime and slickness of seaweed I dreaded getting on my skin or in my hair. Years prior, back home in the salt water, I once stepped on a shelf of mossy rocks and the ocean fuzz got under my toenails. At rest in the waters of the bath, I worry that the black moss of the tub will catch underneath my fingernails as I grip its sill – steading myself in a straight line during the under-tap-water-reprieve.
I open up my eyes under the water and they sting like they would if opened under salt water. My hair in a witch’s tangle around my shoulders. I wonder if this is what the world of death would feel like. Holding my breath and intermittently streaming bubbles in angry bursts, I shift my weight to make swells. I am my own wake.
Disturbing the underwater by shimmying thighs together, the water laps and ripples and distorts the surface of a would-be ocean. The cradlesong of the sea means that a person can take solace knowing that life isn’t an eternity. But I don’t know if bathtub waves sing the same songs.
I might not know the release that comes with the ocean’s soothing songs, but I’ll find a way to get under the waves. Finding majesty in the uncertainty of the surf, looking to exist in the gap between the ocean and the sun where life doesn’t go on forever.
Detritus from the dirty tub sticks in my arm hair, garbage rockfish that live in the foresty kelp of the body. I run out of breath listening to the blood in my ears, the same swirling sound of conch shells. But I don’t hear the relief that’s found in nursery rhymes that live in the indentations of salty waves. Deserting the tub, I bring breakers of the bath ocean with me. Kneeling in observation next to the filmy porcelain, there are flakes of paint that have fallen into the tub – flotsam on manmade combers. Bending over the bath, I make my own miniature waves, using the energy of breath and blowing across the surface of the waters.
Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is the editor of HOOT Review, a genre editor at Lunch Ticket, a cat lady, a contributing writer at SSG music, and a candy enthusiast. She received her BA and M.Ed from Arcadia University, attended Goldsmiths: University of London, Sarah Lawrence College, and is an MFA candidate at Antioch University. When not poorly playing the piano, she chronicles the many ways that she embarrasses herself at the website www.youlifeisnotsogreat.com . She occasionally drinks wine out of a mug that has a smug poodle on it, and she’s not wonderful at writing in the third person.
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