Jun 08

This is how we speak underwater

by Jennifer Vaknine

it’s simple: pads of fingers trace wet skin,
more rhythm, less semantics,

mine are pickled, hers selkie silk
and I drown, and I watch
her gills:

crescent moons that smile
sideways as she breaks
bubbles escaping my lips

my hands are quicksilver fish
fleeing their fate. They beg


but the bridge of her nose folds
against itself
like I’ve suggested poison.

Be happy.

She sings this along the pearls
of my spine. She licks more water
into my lungs.

                        Be happy.

Thoughts crash, scrape abrasive
into the thudding
in my skull. I try to translate
the concept of drowning
to this creature, I sign

                        Your water is like air to me.

into the teeth of her rib cage.
Her mouth stretches wide and hungry
and pleased. I try again, fingers blind,

I can’t breathe here

and she answers soft
and sweet on the skin
of my cheek she whispers

Why else
would you crawl
beneath the waves?



Jennifer Vaknine is from Austin and lives in NYC. Her recent work can be read in Gone Lawn and forthcoming editions of Riggwelter, Star 82 Review, and Slipstream Press.


Art by Michelle Johnsen, art editor

Michelle Johnsen is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by APweather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.