“The Goddess of the Sea-facing World” by Neile Graham

The seawidow crosses the wrackline to range the shores, her steps on
sand, on jagged spears of rock, on knife-edge barnacles, on wave-smoothed
stone. Behind her the village waits, its long lines of houses of piled stone

or planked cedar, sleeping eyes that look to the water, watching for dragon
prows, seawolf prows, our folk or Them, whatever breaks the vague,
distant line between sky and water. She knows the mysteries

of what rides the sea, the air. Loss or bounty. How she misses it, the free
anticipation of inexperience, when it was enough to delight in the universe
marked on a sea-washed stone. She knows it is too late for her. She has

been too long at this, watching for the ones who have taken to the waters,
waiting to see if the waters take them. Considering what the sea might bring.
What rises from the depths she can’t explore. How can it be fair that she

has to know all this? And she laughs to think that she still has the need
to cry unfair, unfair at her seas, who never give any glimpse of their
unfathomable purposes, why they take and give their riches so generously

cruel, cruelly generous, fickle… She wonders how the villagers dare eat
the bounty their fishers sift or what their gatherers glean when at low tide.
Untrustable tides, undertow, tsunamis… the sea-gods bring what they will,

in deadly earnest. Traffic, goods, pirates and highwaymen, brothers
and loves, salt-burned strangers, ends and beginnings, dulse tales
to celebrate harvests, old tales to banish winter and call on the sun,

folk must buy the sea roads’ dangerous passage to bring them all.
She rubs her hands on the driftwood’s bones; it splinters into her flesh:
there are so many ways to go down fighting. So many ways to drown.


Neile Graham is a Canadian writer living in Seattle, WA, and is currently a finalist for a World Fantasy Award for her work for Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her publications include three full-length print collections, most recently Blood Memory, and a spoken-word CD, She Says: Poems Selected & New, and poems in various journals, including Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. For more about her, see www.neilegraham.com.
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