Roundabout the Bottom

Until now I have been desperate and young all my life. A whirlpool is spider webbing a ship, and I am on-duty, receiving the distress signals. They light up my brain with their ciphered knocking. I can only guess at what they’re saying. I cheated on my Morse code tests. The water hikes itself up around them. Their noses goggle, filling with sea. They crumple deeper. The sunken six hundred struggle inside the ocean. I stay up all night think- ing of ways to retrieve a ship from roundabout the bottom of the sea. I drag maps out and periscopes. I find a compass and a barometer. I can’t swim, but still I change into my bathing suit. I consider hurling myself off the dock and dragging each sailor up one by one. The water beetles grow fat with salt. I know it is too late, but still I feel it’s my duty to dredge them up with- out letting anyone know my mistake. Bells are ringing inside of me, telling me to do something else and then something other than that. Alarms are sounding. I don’t know where to go. The possibilities keep splintering. My mind is turning over like a weak ankle. The waves are violining above them; a telescope can give me that sight. I recognize my lack of reason and I purge my apologies into the night air. I offer only my grief as recompense.

Jac Jemc sells books in Chicago. Her first novel, My Only Wife, is forthcoming from Dzanc Books in 2012. She is the poetry editor of decomP, a fiction reader for Our Stories, and a new member of the editorial team at Tarpaulin Sky Press. She contributes regularly to the arts and culture website, Big Other, and chronicles her own rejections at