shadows of the sea
By Gabriella Calabia
Discussed: depictions of human violence
Separated by a century, two paths intersect in a journey of identity, legacy, womanhood, and coming of age in a painful world.
in my dreams my great grandmother and i are one. our earthly bodies never took a breath together but for a moment we froze as she departed the atmosphere and i entered kissing my slanted eyes she offered me her name, our name now our celestial forms find each other again. she guides me through the village she never came back to fire licks the clouds dust in the barren fields catches the air her house caved in from an earthquake she says it was made of the ground and has now returned spices that only adorned her memory waft through us many things she doesn’t recognize. our motherland thrashes under the whip of corruption and greed. she cannot make baby bones and mutilated child soldiers beautiful, she was ripped away before the soft rivers turned red and now she stumbles over bronze bodies strewn together. a girl is raped. relief spreads over her when the knife cuts through her throat like butter. this could have been her, and this would have been me. betrothal shacked her up and no longer can she understand the cries what she does not say is that it was one death exchanged for another. she tells me many did not survive the passage at sea their lifeless bodies thrown overboard i picture all those wronged on land below the waves their pain washed away and lulled to a peace they did not find on land i wonder how often she wished to take her place among them, slowly sinking the world drowned out.
On a warm summer night, when the ocean mist wafted over the dunes and the pale moonlight hung in the air, this piece demanded to be written. There was no choice but to oblige. So with a quivering heart and shaking hand, “shadows of the sea” was born. In the coming months it would be bent, twisted, flipped, broken and turned inside out, until the original lines scrawled in a journal that night finally came to rest above the dust. In the same breath I held while writing it, I release and share it now with you.
Gabriella was born in Basel, Switzerland and spent her early childhood traveling throughout Eurasia before ultimately moving to New York City with her family. Her award-winning poems have been conceived on midnight road trips, cross country train rides and the back of her calculus notes.