the dilemma

(Inspired by Nancy Smith’s painting “In the hand of life”)


When I said
sit still
I meant
we are statues:


monuments to the moves
our mothers made
when things were not
what things are now.


Stay put was meant to help you
keep close, stay safe.


I forgot to tell you
I would hold you, for ever.


Even while you fall.


I forgot that
you should probably
look the other way.

I didn’t think I’d ever learn to love

jellyfish. I mean, they were the reason
I didn’t swim that hot, hot, day in Sweden
when kids and dogs were having all that fun
and everyone promised these ones didn’t sting.
No chance, no way I was letting their slime
all over me, their jellyish ways.


                                       So I can’t
believe I’m saying this, but oh my god, the
colours! Have you ever looked down into the
deep and all around is orange? And all that’s
orange is glowing in the murky green and it’s
the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?


It wasn’t quite that sudden. They pulsed into
my heart with their yellow in Vancouver,
their white when we paused to spend a night
at Lasqueti Island and didn’t even go to shore,
their blue somewhere pacific, days from land
on the way home from Hawai'i. Monterrey wasn’t
the first time, but it was when I worked out
this love was here to stay and I wanted to tell
you, I wanted to tell everyone, and mostly
I wanted to shrink and grow into one of them.

Sara Barnard (she/her) is from the UK, has lived in Spain and Canada, and is now based on a sailboat in Central America, with her partner, child, and laptop. Since obtaining a PhD in Hispanic Studies, she has focused on sailing, parenting, and freelance writing (travel, music, culture). She has had poems published by Bone & Ink Press, Glass Poetry Resists, Hypertrophic Literary,  and The Slag Review, among others.

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