Crossing the Line
by Sonya Taaffe
With her student's backpack, she took the ferry
to Crete, a baker's dozen of years before me --
my mother, born underneath her water-sign,
the sea of black sails churned to lilies
in their wake. Over the side, she dropped
silver for Poseidon, drachmai glittering
out of sight in the spray and the waves
that tumbled away as blue as glass eyes.
Cast words like dice for the depths
and draw across the globe this meridian
that sieves the known world from the told,
god-guarded with kelp and wet sacking,
the myth-ridden edges of the map. Still
a fisherman readies his trident in the shallows
off Heraklion, where I throw this tale
for you to find, like a bottle with a ghost ship
stoppered inside, roses scattered in armfuls
to the candlelit swell, like the watermelon
that the tide rolled up at my mother's feet
as she walked the sand in her hitchhiker's
shoes -- she ate it on the beach, sweet dripping
with salt, her pomegranate from the satisfied sea.
has a confirmed addiction to myth, folklore, and dead languages. A respectable amount of her short fiction and poetry can be found in Postcards from the Province of Hyphens
and Singing Innocence and Experience
(Prime Books), and she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Classics at Yale University. Her favorite fruit is the clementine, on which she subsists, by the crateful, during the winter months.
Of "Crossing the Line," she says,
This is not one of my stories. In 1968, the year after she graduated from college, my mother backpacked across Europe: she waded through a bog in Ireland, looked out over nighttime Vienna from a Ferris wheel, and wrote a postcard home to her parents from Paris that read simply, "Dear Mom and Dad. Did you know that tear gas is good for the sinuses? Love . . ." And when she was in Greece, she threw silver into the sea for Poseidon, and a day later a watermelon washed up at her feet. She always told me that it came from the sea-god. I have since learned that watermelon is also the favorite fruit of Yemaya, one of the three ladies of the sea -- the sunlit waters where the fish breed, rather than sweetwater Oshun, or Olokun, the abyss -- so I no longer know whose gift that particular melon was. But that my mother ate it on a beach in Crete, that year she traveled like Odysseus, is true.
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