Consequences in Water
For all of us who dread the dim light, who stare
at the stars for understanding, whose eyes adjust
at dusk, our perfect mammal smallness
is a pressure. Yesterday, I screamed at my own
inconsequence. My guttural yell rifled like gunshots.
It reached nothing, unlike the ocean’s
prompts, touching wherever they go. On tribal
islands, washerwomen scrub laundry on breakwater
rocks. Some men canoe to an isthmus
for the best catch. And through spume-barrels,
a child stands on a board and ducks. Most people
don’t question, but pay tributes to the sea’s
foam thudding their shores, the water’s high-tide
petticoats that sift all kinds of sky-sun-cloud-airplane
reflections. I wish I could read those scribblings
on the surface or tonight’s half-moon that tugs at me.
Blue driftwood, striped with salt, piles itself onshore.
And right now, sails of shadow—cumulonimbus
fleets, armadas of stars—move over all the fish and their
crazy calligraphy language. I look upward and spy the ink
smudges of bat wings going everywhere. Nowhere.
Cate McGowan is a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Norton’s Flash Fiction International, Glimmer Train, Crab Orchard Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Barrelhouse, Shenandoah, Into the Void, Louisville Review, Atticus Review, Vestal Review, Unbroken, and elsewhere. A native Georgian, McGowan’s an Assistant Fiction Editor for Pithead Chapel and is pursuing her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies. She won the 2014 Moon City Short Fiction Award for her debut short story collection, True Places Never Are, published in 2015, and her debut novel, These Lowly Objects, will appear in early 2020 from Gold Wake Press.
Illustration by Aliya Smith.