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the ocean, embryonic, continues to rise

poetry by Kolleen Carney Hoepfner

the ocean, embryonic, continues to rise 

she cursed the light that fell casual        

then stopped, hanging— 


this was the way home: swimming downward,

the water calibrated to her body.


she was capable of every muscled synchronicity, 

                                            calf and forearm, flex of ankle,

                                            watch her go— 


                                            new human, 

                                            say it: daughter.


and above the surface she seemed

to be taking pleasure 

in the soundless depths of living—

she was home.


                                    do you think she’ll float? 


–if she doesn’t 

it shouldn’t matter.

there was no escaping she who exists only for the sea.



mostly, things are quiet:

it’s a hunting strategy.

there has been no time to dry. there has been no time for anything.

it is a horror: this feminine impression, 

the delicate construct of bones, the unnamable eye bioluminescent,

the lower body, the glass flower,

the muscular curl constructed to survive 

whatever the cost.

  the human must be incredibly flexible 

                no matter how fragile they seem 

                                               from throat to lap. 


she pulls apart and then, by summer

she will be in her sweetest tone, 

chasing mermaids

blessed                   and limitless.




she is filled with the surface of the sea,

the swell-hitch luxury of bubble and shell 

all stolen valor, the amplifying effect,

the photic zone.


                she knows 

                the ocean, learned to walk with salt, 

                loves only this: 

                the foam baptizing her feet


                whorl of shell, glint of glass

                smoothed into a mothering roundness

                she barely recognizes


except for a sharpness under her tongue

from time to time.




at the mouth of the world 

the waters open, 

give up their secrets: the ghosts of childhood,

a deepwater sampling—



they will expect her to be virtually invisible

with a delicate respect 

for the drowned world 


but this is not where she will belong.


she will make sure they know

that water is not proof of life;

the ocean has never been gentle,


               every inch,

               every discernable surface

               will be riddled by bones, 

               haunted by ghosts,

               punished for hubris.


the sea holds a grudge

                               but she will have the privilege 

                               of sitting in the sun

                               of relative solitude.


give those beasts the good, clean death.



sometimes she will wish the sea filled her. 

                a moving ship wouldn’t understand

                that a woman looks different every time.




where was the past in relation to her corporeal self?

what fossilized history lives beneath the enamel of her dogteeth?

how many have died so that she could manage to survive?


it is never enough.



she will hide

in the deepest womb of the ocean

the divine secret.


below, deeper still, 

where it could reach full growth

the her of her will be waiting.




every day will be a beautiful day, then.

               the ocean we have 

               is not responsible

               for the creatures that made it

               what it is.


she is a woman whose eyes stare out to sea,

propelled by amniosis,

oiled skin shining in the forever sun.


you don’t have to imagine

                                how she twinkles

                                against the slick pitch ever.


she realizes her protector gives good distance;

if she waits here long enough 

it might provide her the goddess.




let her stay that way, brown shoulder darling,

lashflash ready and grit,

skin rough like sharkhide.


and let the rest of them live,

hands behind their backs,

throats waiting for a final

dizzying convention.


                o Daughter whose eyes are every color of the Pacific

                o depthless Daughter, eyes unsinkable,  





For Leda Lynn


Kolleen Carney Hoepfner

Kolleen Carney Hoepfner's poetry and other writings can be found in Rabid Oak, Memoirs Mixtape, Glass, Occulum, and elsewhere. Kolleen serves as Editor in Chief of Drunk Monkeys, and is the Managing Editor and Social Media Coordinator for Zoetic Press. She is the author of Your Hand Has Fixed the Firmament (Grey Book Press) and A Live Thing, Clinging with Many Teeth (Spooky Girlfriend Press). Her main goal in life is to have Alec Baldwin smile at her. She lives in Burbank, California, with her husband and children.

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