Ocean Birth by Hailey Stoner

When Venue rises from the ocean,
she emerges as
one of the most beautiful
women ever seen.

Blown in on seafoam
and shell, her long, blonde
hair flutters against her unblemished, porcelain
skin as Spring embraces
her with a
blanket of flowers.

When I rise from the ocean,
it’s nothing like Venus.
It’s much uglier.

Arms and legs flail
this way and that, pushing against
the waves. Salt sits like
a burning itch
in my throat.
My hair wraps around my neck,
choking me, and I peel the long
knots from my skin
before stepping on something
slimy, hoping it’s just

On land, my mother
embraces me with a striped towel,
wiping the sting from my eyes
and snot from my nose
as the wind pelts my legs
with tiny grains of sand,
sticking to my wet
sunscreen-soaked skin.

I wait where the water meets
solid ground to rinse
my feet, resisting
the urge to retreat
up the beach.

Resisting the need
to carry buckets of water
up the hot surface
to clear-cut the perfect spot
to sculpt a castle
for the crabs.
Resisting the urge to dig
a hole deep enough
to stand inside. Big enough
that the shovel’s wooden handle
rubs calluses on my soft skin
that I don’t even notice
until later that night.

When the water finally washes
ashore, the riptide pulls the ground
out from underneath my toes,
attempting to take me
with the rocks and broken shells.

I almost let it.
To see if this is Venus herself, calling
me back. I want her to yank me
under the seafoam, to see
if I will re-emerge from the murky waves
with smooth skin worthy
of a blanket of flowers.
I really do.
But, I don’t.

Hailey Stoner was born and raised in Western Maryland. She graduated from the creative writing program at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, and is a current student at Hagerstown Community College. She writes short fiction, essays, and poetry.