Her name is as old as lichen-encrusted rocks and shallow cliffs. Its meaning forgotten, withered like the yellow bush poppies that once bloomed to reveal a path to paradise.
She takes a shallow breath alongside the high tide.
Seabirds huddle as refugees at her feet, cold saltwater trapped against their skin and matted feathers. They try to preen, eating the darkness instead.
Boats come and go, their fat bottoms scraping her sheens, turning the reef to ghostly white. They drop offerings of nylon nets and treble hooks and six-pack rings. College kids with moonshine bright faces drink to her beside driftwood fires and take pictures of her dying form to post on social media feeds. By dawn, empty Budweiser shells are all that remains of them, the aluminum baubles left to corrode and pierce her skin.
In a low wave, she exhales, the sound crackling and wet.
Her figure is hidden by cigarette butts, wood pulp, and candy bar wrappers. The sand weeps oil. The currents carry the globs to her like dyed pearls, until her scent is that of a gas station. Her heart is replaced with sun cream tubes and drinking bottles with faded labels, shredded wicker, sandalwood, sulfur, and dead alewives with silver scales and empty, staring eyes.
It’s hard to breathe. A scrub-jay calls out for a mate, wistfully, not realizing he’s the last of his kind. Soon, none will remember the color of his caerulean wings.
Same as the world has forgotten her.
Anna Madden’s fiction has appeared in Tree and Stone, Solarpunk Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly, and elsewhere. In free time she makes birch forests out of stained glass. Follow her on Twitter @anna_madden_ or visit her website at annamadden.com.
photo by Ivan Bandura (via unsplash)