Notes from the Oceanic Metaphors Panel at AWP 2023 Seattle Washington 3/11/23.
The belly of that tremendous beast holds the gold
Of women who didn’t make it or escaped or fled maybe
maybe they sliced upward downward side to seaside until river artery flowed free for bloody child free
Women looking seaworthy longtime memory water reflection like me
Slid gold jewels in pain ritual combat ritual tribute maybe. I will never really know but there is a thick perfect dark grey rim around each of my brown irises and I think those women maybe call me…beckon me to the sea. Beckon me to the belly of that river sea beast to see.
Golden jewelry stolen or slid or hid for centuries in the belly of that beast.
The belly of that beast holds gold
And women who waited for me to earn a golden degree
Aunties and cousins and sisters. Ones escaping misinformed categories. My mother whose body had left but whose spirit was still with me maybe maybe maybe…
Because she taught me to call for her three times in the language of a prophet she converted to love and so I called umi umi umi crossing a stage getting a PhD where they honored me
A doctor having mastered the rhetoric of the language of the empire writing my history sea to shining sea. They hooded me. They claimed me. And said I could now buy a ring
A golden ring as I exited a belly
Where I reflected for seven years on the usage of that language which connected me to I and I Virginia and Virgin Islands under a legacy of being an empire of no sunsets
An empire of people laboring. An empire of no rest.
That beast holds gold
And for many years of summers before the seven years I asked for the ocean. My magnificent mother took me to Bermuda when I was a beaded dancing sea star birthday girl. Where she asked me “what do you want from the ocean?”
Every year I search. Some years I find a new saltwater place. On my birthday and ask what I want. This year I found the saltwater place in my eyes and on my cheeks and in other eyes. And on other cheeks. I thought of that gold in the belly of that tremendous beast.
Sliced it open looking for the sunsets the empire had stolen. I must want my water to get them back for me.
But has back ever really been what the ocean, those ancestors, those women slipping golden jewelry into the belly of that beast, wanted for me?
And did she they he we ever really give up anything? Or has she they he we always been saving sunsets rest and salt for me and I and I Virginia and Virgin and not and islands and all the ones I’ll ever never know can fly free?
I thank the people for the tears I witnessed on this birthday. For knowing to ask only to be held and to hold. For knowing though my mother can’t sit next to me, she leaves messages in my own belly.
A birthday wish for me to be unburdened of holding gold.
Only to hold me. Only for me to hold me.
And that PhD a degree a training for a job where my real job is slicing that language loosening its waters that I and anyone else I can bring with me might be free and lift mother Toni ancestor Toni brilliant Toni.