Illustration by Isip Xin

Listen:

It is only October and already
the snow is falling. I watch it
change direction with the wind.
Left. Then right, as if seeking,
like I have been seeking, ever since
I came to this land-locked place, a body
of water, disoriented as I am
by the everywhereness of roads.
I was raised on kelp and salt water,
raised to sink my brown toes into
the wet sand, damming each
delicate sand crab river. Of course, 

they would come up for air wailing
their white exoskeletons at me, these
creatures who taught me to burrow,
to retract my appendages when threatened
and become shell. Taught me to still
my girl body, to let the water spill ‘round
my ashy legs. This, only after I stopped
running from the water’s edge. After
I understood the waves would not
continue their chase—that some
mother had her hand on the ocean’s collar
too—was I able to relax with my own:

The two of us, mother and daughter,
resting our brown and white together
under the sun like Eucalyptus bark, multi-
colored and choked up by the sea.
I was mesmerized by how willing her skin
was to leave her. Would make a game
of it. Peeling layers of dead from her
body in the largest pieces I could manage.
She’d laugh, shrug her shoulders out
of my curious fingers, why don’t you go
catch sand crabs or build a castle or something?
But it was the nearness of her that mattered
as I sat prying a fortress from her body
one translucent layer at a time.

Jamaica Baldwin

Jamaica Baldwin hails from Santa Cruz, CA by way of Seattle. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Third Coast, Prairie Schooner, Hayden's Ferry, The Adroit Journal, The Missouri Review, and TriQuarterly, among others. She was the winner of the 2019 San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference Contest in Poetry and received an honorable mention for the 2019 International Literary Award's Rita Dove Prize. Her writing has been supported by Hedgebrook and the Jack Straw Writers program. Jamaica is currently pursuing her PhD in English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.