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Upon Realizing There Are Ghosts in the Water

30 April, 2019

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Upon Realizing There Are Ghosts in the Water

by Leila Chatti
                       
                        —in memory of the refugees drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea
 
I should have known but the water
never told me. It sealed its blue lips
after swallowing you, it licked my ankles
like a dog. I won’t lie
and say the ocean begged for forgiveness;
it gleams unchanged in the sun.
Some things are so big they take and take
and remain exactly the same size.
Darkness is like this; grief too. I cry
and the ocean slips from me—all along
a little sea roiling inside with its own
sad phantoms. For a summer I soaked in
its green warmth, wore its salt like gemstones.
Now the heavy shame: how I waded in
to your grave as if trying it on,
how, when the waves came,
they gave me back.
 
“Upon Realizing There Are Ghosts in the Water” by Leila Chatti, from Tunsiya/Amrikiya. Bull City Press, 2018. Used by permission of the author.
 
Leila Chatti currently lives in Cleveland, where she is the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Writing and Publishing at Cleveland State University. A Tunisian-American dual citizen, she has lived in the United States, Tunisia and Southern France. Her recent book, Tunsiya/Amrikiya, was the 2017 Editors’ Selection from Bull City Press. Her poems have received prizes from Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest, Narrative’s 30 Below Contest and the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, among others, and appear in Best New Poets (2015 & 2017), Ploughshares, Tin House, American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, New England Review, Kenyon Review Online, Narrative, The Rumpus and other journals and anthologies.
 

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READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.