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It’s not about knowing
the right words to say.

Memories have permanence,
tattooed anchors.

Our dearly departed live

in cooking smells,
in the iridescence of abalone shells,
in knotted nets.

If we are careful,
patient and persistent,
we can tell the dead:

“Thank you” or “I miss you.”

I heard only silence

until my grandmother,
who drowned six years earlier,

spoke one simple word
through the hiss of searing fish:

Sail.

When I failed to make the spring’s crew
I cried a hurricane.

My tears flooded the docks,
washed the fishermen away.

Before I could sink, the captain tossed
a lifeline.

“None of this will matter when you are old.”

It never occurred to me that
seventeen was not forever.

Winds die. Horizons end.

If I were a sailor, I’d be the lonely type.

My letters home sealed in
empty rum bottles.

If I were a sailor, I’d surf on waves,
hanging on to sly mermaids.

If I were a sailor, I’d sing:

Tick tock goes the clock.
The night is old,
the wet air cold.
No more time for doubt,
the sun is set and gone.
Distant shores roll up,

I sail on and on and on.

They say you can’t choose
family,

but anyone who has turned themselves
out to tide knows better.

When my brother enlisted, I replaced him.
When my parents weren’t home, I left.

I found a man at the pier and called him husband.
I saw a woman swimming alone and named her wife.

Little cats and ship rats make excellent children.
They eat home cooked dinners and keep their ears clean.

My new family never asks
who and where and why.

We sway. We light
bonfires on shifting dunes of sand.

Ship shape,
first mate,
I’m sailing,
I’m sailing.

Hard gale,
fantail,
I’m bailing,
I’m bailing.

Scud dash,
rock crash,
I’m praying,
I’m praying.

Slick deck,
keel wreck.

All souls lost at sea.

When we seek our ancestors
we bring touchstones;

beloved belongings     rope
past to present.

We bake bread, we place
flaming pyres on unsettled waters.

My grandmother came from a far away land.
Her stories were oceans of brine and grass.

She worked in the kitchens of her landlord,
slept in hay,
sang on the shore.

If I were a sailor,
I would build a ship to travel time,

to feel the same salty winds that
swept her hair, taught her the secrets of

speaking with the dead.



Kathryn Allan is an academic editor, independent scholar, and writer. She is co-editor (with Djibril al-Ayad) of Accessing the Future (a disability-themed SF anthology), editor of Disability in Science Fiction, and the inaugural recipient of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship.
Current Issue
3 Oct 2022

Lying in bed last night I felt fingers reach in, grabbing. I opened in spite of myself as you clawed me with your fingernails, flattened, panicked. Split throat, iron tongue, white masks ranged overhead, the rings on their fingers scraping me as they reached in to take you.
from my tower we climb, shroud as my veil. We leap on his fae steed
I tell smug Cyclops that I’m as gay as the next mutant, and that all mutants find themselves within battles
Get ready to feel hungry, because the theme for this quarterly roundup is food.
Wednesday: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo 
Wednesday: Where You Linger & Other Stories by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam 
Issue 26 Sep 2022
Issue 21 Sep 2022
Issue 12 Sep 2022
Issue 5 Sep 2022
Issue 29 Aug 2022
By: Cat T.
Issue 22 Aug 2022
Issue 15 Aug 2022
Issue 8 Aug 2022
Issue 1 Aug 2022
Issue 18 Jul 2022
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