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  • We Go to the Water
  • Sarah Twombly (bio)

We go to the water, the children and I—the children and I, who have been lashed together like a beleaguered life raft, each of us the other's only hope for survival.

We go to the water, offer ourselves to the waterfall. We climb into its thunder. We forget the sky. We forget each other. We toss our hearts into the maelstrom, where they are battered and broken and something is knocked loose, and suddenly we can breathe. Without masks, without fear, we can breathe.

We go to the water on days we cannot go elsewhere. Elsewhere has been closed for the season. Elsewhere has disappeared, is a place we see from the corners of our eyes as we drive down empty roads, past shuttered stores, on our way out of town. Elsewhere is there, but also it isn't.

The week George Floyd was murdered, the week we, yet again, roared Black Lives Matter, the week a wave of anger and death and hope swept in—an overdue reap tide of devotion rising between brothers and sisters, neighbors and neighborhoods—we went to the pond and identified five species of frogs, and the children shrieked as the frogs jumped, unseen and unexpected, from the reed-ridden edge where our toes left deep indentations in the mud. We threw stones and sadness and bore witness as both sunk into the murk.

We go to the water, but we dry out so quickly. We desiccate. We whither. We come undone. So we return, again and again, praying the current will salve us whole.

We go to the water because the water does not come to us. We find a pocket beach, a near-impossible sandy stretch caught by the rocky jaws of a cove, along an impossibly rocky coast we had driven a dozen times before but had never seen, had never noticed. And, of course, we get out of the car. And of course, although we are clothed, although we have no towels, although we wore no suits or suntan lotion, we run to the waters' edge. My [End Page 110] daughter does cartwheels in the surf. My son digs a trench in the sand. They both peel off their clothes, down to their underwear, and dance along the rising tide, making up songs they sing at the top of their lungs and toss out to sea, blessings with kite tails knitted of kelp. Four hours it holds us, that cove—our makeshift raft of bandits and mourners and dinosaurs—eroding our exhaustion, washing the sweat from our bodies, erasing the hour-long car ride it will take us to get home, during which my son will scream and my daughter will demand story after story, and during which, neither of them will sleep.

My youngest refused to leave, fled from me, naked, down the beach, arms outstretched, chasing a seagull, ready, himself, to leap into the open air, a phantasm of feathers and thirst. [End Page 111]

Sarah Twombly

Sarah Twombly received her mfa from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Esquire Magazine, Scary Mommy, Hippocampus, and Atticus Review among others, and is forthcoming from Contrary Magazine and Décor Maine. She has received the Maine Literary Award for short nonfiction, the Glascock Prize in Poetry, and the Katherine McFarland Prize for fiction. She currently resides in the woods of central Maine with her wild and beloved family. You can find her on twitter @Sarahtwombly



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pp. 110-111
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