The Sea Vent
The first time I noticed ripples on the waters of my life
was the day Dad pulled me from my third-grade class
to assure me what was happening
between him and Mom was not my fault.
We walked around an artificial pond in the park,
a fountain showering light at its center.
A large bubble surfaced and popped, releasing
the overheated sound of my own voice:
My fault. I hadn’t considered it till then.
A vent opened beneath me that day, a fissure
in the ocean floor threatening to erupt, tremors
roiling the placid psyche of a child, drowning
my brain in hydrothermal swells, seawater saturating its folds.
From then on, the churn intensified, chaos at a rolling boil.
My parents became a river I could not cross alone.
Dad’s new family kept him busy in a way he didn’t expect.
He thought he would float his new wife and her kids
onto his idea of my life and we would all swim in the same
direction. But they gulped all the oxygen from his lungs.
He couldn’t muster a single breath for me.
Mom abandoned my gangly limbs to tread water on
the gurgling swells while she dated, partying late
into the night, early into the wee hours every Friday,
every Saturday, paying me two dollars per night
from the laundry quarters to watch my younger
sister and brother. The coins bought passage
but weighed like anchors in my pocket.
While she sailed on, I sputtered and gasped,
a sacrifice to the midnight horizon she believed
would yield a tranquil existence, pitch black,
thick cloud cover, new moon. No North Star to be found.
At the condo complex pool, I listened
to the Cars and Weird Al through the foam
of my headphones and gaped at the grate
like an escape hatch at the bottom of the blue water
while she worked all day, all week. No lifeguard,
the sitter sat us poolside while her boyfriend tried
to impress her with cannonballs. I scratched at
my sunburned wrist until I broke the skin. The gash
in the seabed writhed like an octopus beneath
the entirety of my life. My lungs filled, my heart stopped,
hope died. No lifeguard. Unmoored, I eddied over the turbulent
abyss, the thrashing gouge, in a foundering boat whose oars
I could not grasp, spiraling on the seething water
over a wound opened by the gods of the sea,
over a wound opened by the gods of the sea.
Eric Lochridge (he/him) is an MFA candidate in the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. He is the author of My Breath Floats Away From Me (FutureCycle Press, 2022) and three chapbooks. His poems have appeared in DIAGRAM, UCity Review, Okay Donkey, Hawaii Pacific Review and Kissing Dynamite among others. Find him on Twitter @ericedits. His website is at ericedits.wordpress.com.
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