Author’s Note: “To learn about myself, I study my parents, both the stories they told of their childhoods and the stories I witnessed. I was a player as well as a spectator to the theatre of my parents’ marriage. Their partnership was not idyllic but found an equilibrium in dispute. Can the telling, the receiving of stories transmit wisdom between generations? Whether versed in the language of water or war, whether believed or not, stories hopefully serve as a bonding current that flows beyond the boundaries of lives.”
Learning to Swim
The tide is out, and Atlantic Beach is barren,
barren of my father who loved the ocean
and its beatings as if his body deserved them.
My mother had to cross an ocean to meet him.
She never learned to swim. My father could never
teach her. In 1938 she’d fallen into Suwalki’s Czarna River.
Her brother fished her out with a limb.
Indigo dye dribbled down her legs and trailed tails of inky bruises.
That night, her father’s belt smacked deep into her pale skin
for ruining her dress, staining their name.
The tangle of violet tattoos grew into my parents’ knotted bond.
My father did teach my mother to drive—shouts, slams, cries—
in the 1958 blue-mist Buick Riviera. I learned to keep my head down
and buried in the aquamarine velveteen of the expansive backseat.
Above, beyond, the waves of battering sound.
Ellen Sazzman, from Maryland, has been published in Another Chicago, Poetry South, PANK, Ekphrastic Review, WSQ, Sow’s Ear, Lilith, Beltway Quarterly, and CALYX, among others. She received an honorable mention in the 2019 Allen Ginsberg contest, was shortlisted for the 2018 O’Donoghue Prize, and won first place in Poetica Magazine’s 2016 Rosenberg competition. She was also a 2012 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her collection The Shomer (Finishing Line Press) was a finalist for the 2020 Blue Lynx Prize and a semifinalist for the Elixir Antivenom Award and the Codhill Press Award.
Delmarva Review, now in its 15th year, publishes compelling poetry, fiction, and nonfiction selected from thousands of submissions annually. Designed to encourage outstanding new writing, the literary journal is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It is available from Amazon.com, most online booksellers, and regional specialty bookstores. Financial support includes tax-deductible contributions and a grant from the Talbot Arts with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org
Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article
We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.