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Poem by Ariela Hercek

LONGING

I have forgotten how to belong

to an ocean,

its slip and slide licking my skin

like an ancient lover licking strawberry juice 

off my fingers all those years ago, 

wailing steadily in my dreams still,

like a church bell calling me to mass — 

except it never stops ringing. 

Forgetting is easier than convincing 

my dreams to stop haunting

me with demons I’d already exorcised 

by purging my body with words and 

no small amount of tears, yes, 

this, too, is a relic of how I once loved the 

ocean but forgot its power until

it seized a part of me that is

so unforgettably human. 

This is the part where I have to 

admit that I am

not a goddess.

I did not crawl out of sea foam, 

or roll gracefully out of a shell, 

my making was forceful, 

I was a child born of wrong kind of love,

I stood up from the waves with hair

green with algae, rusty nails and bones seething with anger, 

I was a monster before I was ever anything else, 

how sad that it took you cracking my ribcage open 

like an egg

for me to evolve into

something earthly and divine. 

Originally published in Issue XVIII in May 2019.