Leaving SeaWorld

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.

1 thought on “Leaving SeaWorld

  1. I taste the adamancy of this poem’s narrator, the bitter sweetness of her tongue. Lennie, please correct ‘mantle—only’ & ‘shark\’s teeth’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s