I Go Back to the Ocean of My Childhood

When you were a child
did you lose yourself at the seashore
and forget life aches?

Did you run to the waters laughing?

I go back
to the ocean of my childhood
where I was a girl
photographed by my mother,
my father looking out to sea

I want the waves to whisper something
but they are still
suspended in memory
they do not roar
they do not call me
they are sketched with light upon paper
and will never swell or break again

I cannot separate my own love
for the ocean from my mother’s love
for me and her love of the sea

In my memory, she is there
holding the camera
smiling my name
bare feet in the sand

she has a body
and a voice I can hear
and has not yet flown
to a distant shore
familiar but unreachable
like a song you knew
as a child but have forgotten
how to sing

hope is the whole motion of the ocean
but grief comes in waves
and lasts until it passes
and remakes us,
retouching photographs,
rewriting memory,
and etching with light
the image of a future
where lives do not end
but go on eternal
as far as the eye can see
and beyond the horizon
of calm sea

I think of all the things I should say
to the child in this photograph
to prepare her for the moment
when she will be a woman
writing a poem about the death of her mother.

And all I can say is this:
Enjoy your day at the beach.

But she is running and laughing
And smiling for the camera
And she does not hear.

art, black and white, monochrome, photograph, drawing, pen and ink, little girl on the beach, looking into camera, ocean, memories, art, mackenzie chester, journaling, journal


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