Size / / /

He wraps his arms 'round her now,

his bonny sweetheart in her corset and petticoats,

froth of lace over cotton dyed restless as the sea.

She laughs for his kiss and his arms.

"This is how far you will always be from me," she says,

pulling away to stretch out his arms. He is a seabird,

sleeves flapping like wings. "This," he says, "is how far I will be

on land. And I am not staying on land."

She smiles, lets go his arms to wrap him in hers. "No.

Then it will be this far."

His ship leaves port on Tuesday's tide.

When his sweetheart comes to kiss him, she wears a dress like waves,

dark and churning, and there is seafoam at her wrists and in her hair,

trailing from her hat.

He gathers her in, his wild tide.

She smiles, and puts her arms around him. "Remember," she says against

his salt-gritted scruff of beard. "It will be this far."

His lips tingle and sting when she kisses him, salt, seawater,

and he does not want to leave her like he does not want to leave the sea.

Then she opens her mouth and breathes softly, and it's wind off the ocean.

He breathes it in, breathes it all in, feels the sweetness of her tongue

before she says again, "Remember."

Then she is away

and he is underway,

but he brings her voice with him in the cry of the gulls,

in the creak of ropes and timber and the lapping of the waves,

It will be this far, remember.

In his hammock he dreams he is in her embrace,

sinking safe under the waves,

and he remembers how he first saw her walking out of the surf,

how she was all kelp and brine in his arms.

This far, she says in his ear,

her voice the flow of water over his skin.

He wakes to the fall of sunlight filtered

through the depths of the sea.

J. C. Runolfson is a Rhysling-nominated poet whose work has appeared before in Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, and Not One of Us, among others. She comes from a long line of sailors and fishermen, and the sea strongly influences her work. Her livejournal is Waterlogged, and you can find more of her previous work in our archives.
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