‘Ocean’ by Inez Tan

Seven times I almost turn back,
dizzy with the fear of watching myself ram
into another car, careen beneath thundering
trucks, soar clean
off the edge of a bridge,
easily. What keeps me on the road
isn’t courage. Courage couldn’t save
the mermaid who ventured out onto land
only to fail at her one task—to be loved
as one of them. Courage couldn’t explain
why she returned—too late—to the ocean,
to be cast out again, into air. To travel endlessly
must be the only way to live.
No sense in stopping, if that’s so. But killing
the engine at last, taking off
my shoes, I walk the final stretch
to the beach, the one across from the hospital,
through burning sand into water
so cold it can’t not be real. Let me
stay. Let me hear a voice say: Here
I am, to take you as you are.

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