A Poem by Karen Kelsay
Jacques Cousteau would have loved
our living room, where Dad displayed his creepy
collection of sea creatures inside the dark
paneled den. In this grotto-shrine
there were no pictures of daughters
in frilly dresses on the mantle, only a looming
photo of an eel sliding from its cove,
with a sheepshead and giant grouper
making their debut over the sofa. By the door
a parrot and dolphin fish were hung.
Our coffee table had cork legs with crushed
abalone embedded in the surface
and a glass lamp above it, with a shade
made from boat canvas. Hammerhead
shark’s teeth and sand dollars were wedged
between diving books on the shelves.
At age three Dad put a wetsuit on me.
Each summer I joined a swim team, snorkeled
and scuba dived. He helped make my surfboard
and cheered me on when I caught a wave.
One July I noticed bikinis looked more
appealing than a one piece that I liked eating ice cream
better than having a salt water-itch and sandy scalp.
I gave up diving gear and tackle boxes,
decided fish have a disgusting feel to them and that freaky
things lived in coral reefs. I realized jellyfish could sting,
sharks were ugly, wetsuits were uncomfortable
and people could run out of air using tanks.
I bought myself a little ruffled sundress and stretched
out in a chair by the pool. I slathered Coppertone
on my legs and put lemon in my hair. I stopped praying
I would grow fins and that my photo
would be hung on the wall.