The Water Beating Against Your Skin

Mari Ness

The water beckons. Not quite safe –
but you have never felt the need for safe.
You pause, listen for birds, for chatter,
for cars, watch the water
for shadowed shapes.
The last time, you saw
black knobs approach
just before the wrenching end,
the rapid scramble to the
water's edge.

The jacket first. Slowly. A bird
calls out to the sun. Next the shirt.
You let the sunlight fall
into your hair, let shadows
dance across your shoulders,
your chest. The water waits.
Jeans next. A little clumsy, this –
the denim so tight against your skin.
You take your time,
spin again,
run your tongue
against your lips.

You turn. You hear
the water shift.
Insects perhaps. Or fish.
You shed the last few remnants
of your clothes.
A shriek of birdsong
tears the air.
You step into
the waiting

Warm, this water.
You had almost forgotten.
Almost.  You
look down to the limestone below,
remember when
it held trees and dirt.
Your fists clench.
The water stirs,
presses hard
against your skin.
You cry out
into the wind.

Return to me, you beg.
Water flows across your lips,
presses against your skin.
You can walk upon the earth
again, touch me
with wet skin,
cry out
into the night.
Sip coffee
in the morning.
Return to me,
return to me.
Kiss me
until we
both forget.

You slide down into the depths,
press feet
into the harsh limestone.
The water holds you close.
For this you will risk anything.
The birds shriek soaring into the sky.
You will not, cannot forget.
The water knows.
		    Come back.
You sink, knowing
you will return.
The water beats into your skin. 

Mari Ness has published poetry and fiction in, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Apex, Uncanny, Daily Science Fiction, Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons and other publications She is also the author of Through Immortal Shadows Singing, a poetry novella, released in 2017 by Papaveria Press. For a longer list of her works, see her blog at She lives in central Florida, and can be found on Twitter, @mari_ness.