Amputee of the Red Sea

Keeping with the theme of seas and underwater miracles is this poem, written in October of 2007.  Our family had arrived in August in our new home in Munich just days removed from our Parker’s funeral held in Utah, and by October the gray and wet of a Bavarian autumn lay across the skies and our spirits like a sodden gray flannel blanket.

Thanks to  several connections from Randall’s work which took him regularly to the Middle East, and using an accumulation of airline points, we escaped the heaviness of the city for the light and lightness of the south. What I found quickly, though, was that grief knows no borders.  You cannot go far enough away or deep enough into the sunshine to not carry its shadow on your shoulders.

At that point, I was still unable to immerse myself in water — even showering was a test of my will — and so I couldn’t join my children in the water where they were trying snorkeling for the first time in their lives.  I chose to sit and watch from the pier. How could people not know the terror of water, I wondered. And how could the world be celebrating life with the sun darkened, everything eclipsed by such blunt loss as that which I felt in my very limbs? I sat like stone while these thoughts swam and thrashed in my brain.

Then I heard  and felt something approaching from behind.

Amputee of the Red Sea


I’m watching bodies

From where I sit at the end of the pier, knees tucked up close to my chin,

Heat blurring todayandthen.

These bodies float face down, strewn like the drowned dead across this,

The Miracle Basin.

Nothing, not even these happy snorklers, can keep me from

Weeping behind black lenses.

And you roll up right beside me.

Roll right up within inches and

Raise yourself from your chair,

Raise yourself with shoulders as imposing as the Sphynx,

Raise then brace then whisk yourself down onto the pier to sit

At my side.

Just one thin plank divides us.

Your legs end midthigh.

All torso and profile, you overfill my peripheral field, and in

Half a breath I feel to be

Your companion in deficit.

My tears stop.  Then my legs suddenly shame me.

I would speak to you. I would turn my shoulders, clear my throat, take off my glasses

And I would speak to you.

You’re here, too, I would say, just sitting and watching,

Cut in half as I feel


And how did yours happen and when and how have you made it

And will we ever know joy we who are so chopped down


You fling yourself into the blue,

Splitting the Sea with arms like windmills,

Arms that, with each plunge,

Whip droplets of miracle water onto my shins.


© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and, 2012.  This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

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