I return to the old [[beach]]. \nTo the girl-fishes \nin their concrete pots.
She invited me \nto her blue-green roofed house\nsaid, why are we so insistent \non pretending\neverything that matters \nabout the body \nbe [[visible?|Statues]]
[[Scales|Beginning]]\nby Ruth Jenkins
The city had [[hacked]] away \nthe sea-girls at the feet,\ntransported them to the beach, \ncast them in concrete boxes,\nwith their faces fixed out on the [[sea|At the hospital]].
In the canteen, \nTwo sisters held hands and [[did not eat]].
A few evenings later\nshe ran her fingers \nalong the [[lines]] of my body. \nSoftly [[touched]] \nthe places they cut away.
[[Marcie]] leaves fresh towels and soaps\n outside my door.\nI go for long walks \nacross fields in the [[rain]].
4. Waiting\n\nThe doctor calls \nto say\nSera is under general anaesthetic\nafter emergency surgery,\nand is stabilising [[slowly]].
This morning Marcie looks up at me\nin that direct unblinking way,\nsays, I need you for this. \nYou understand her work\nin ways I [[can't|passed]].
And I want to share\n[[so much]] with them\nbut I [[can't]]
1. Hospital.\n\nSera swears the hospital becomes a [[ship]] at night \nits foundations loosen and shrug off the [[earth]].
I need to live in a world \nwhere someone else has [[seen it|passed]]
In the mornings, [[Marcie|envy]] sits at the kitchen table\nabsorbed in her quiet, careful work: \na list describing [[each]] of Sera's pieces,\ndates, materials, locations in\n[[neat]] precise handwriting.
Marcie visits first, \nleaves the hospital room \nwith pages of neat [[notes]]
Spend long afternoons with Sera, \nreturn dreaming \nnew forms and colours \nfor my work. \nNext visit, \nI find my colours and forms \nin hers.\n \nThis has been the shape of our [[lives|passed]].
I think we [[recognise|sketchpad]] each other\nin that silent way.
In this city, the sea is always the [[horizon]]\nthe lights of ship-wrecked boats [[stars]].
I sit in corridors with sterilising lights. \n[[Marcie|wife]] two plastic seats down.\n \nWhen we stand the [[earth]] tilts \nback and forth to an old [[rhythm|Body]].
A teenager in a long dress \nsits curled by the rocks. \nA [[sketchpad]] balanced\non front of their knee.\nFabric covers the surface of their [[skin]].
Just patterns you could only see\nif you needed them:\ndiamonds the shapes of [[scars|At the hospital]]
2. Art School\n\nI was born on land.\nIn the hospital they [[cut]] \nmy fish shape from me.\nDiagonal incisions:\ndiamonds or lines of [[xs|x]]. \nThey told my mother \nI was too young \nto miss [[it|space]].
Sometimes I envy her.\nThe warmth of the fire in the evenings, \nThe way bodies come to move as though \nthey are extensions of each other\nafter years in the [[same space|Life now]].
When I was seventeen\nI found \nslashed glimmering \nfish-scale [[diagonals]]\nin bus shelter seats,\ntarmac and letterboxes.\nI [[traced]] them back \nto Sera's name.
But I have ignored her too long. \nTo begin now would be an [[intrusion|passed]].
Sera taught me \nto work with knives. \ncut into tarpaulin,\ncotton and lace, \nWorked incisions, \nthe very shape \nof my [[scars|Statues]].
It is 01:31am. \nThe doctors ring to say \nthe worst has [[passed|return home]]
She told me she was born at sea.\nShe'd moved away \nbefore the sea villages were [[poisoned]].
He looked at me and smiled as though \nMarcie was a confused old woman \nwe were both [[humouring|Body]].
Their arms full of [[small treasures]],\n [[shell and bone]].
They carried pearls too, \nSera told me years later,\nbut those of course were [[stolen|uncovered]].
We wait for [[news]]. \nI quietly move into the guest room \nin Marcie and Sera's blue-green tiled [[house]].
I stumbled.\nMy torch beam flashed \nacross wooden [[girl-fish]] bodies \never so still among the trees.
On my last visit, \nSera batted at the air,\nher bed a life boat\nthrough the [[rising tide|Body]].
I could never afford\nthis [[triumph|withdrawl]].
1. Hospital.\n\nSera swears the hospital becomes a [[ship]] at night \nits foundations loosen and shrug off the [[earth]].
it's enough for them\neven here\nto have seen this.\n\n[[◊◊◊|End]]
When I saw Sera\nfor the very first time,\n[[scales]] glittered beneath her sleeves, \nand she did not move to hide them.
Lush shimmering scales \nshaped nothing like [[ours|withdrawl]].
Their mothers \nhad warned them:\nlook back and all this \nwill [[drown]].
But how much energy this takes,\nhow many stories it [[interrupts|gone]].
It's not so much that I'm afraid \nshe will not [[recognise]] me.
I'd known Sera for five years\nbefore she could [[talk]] about it.
I have always lived alone. \nTen years ago I moved to an island. \nEvenings I clean offices and schools\nNights and early mornings \nI find the silence to [[work|visits]].
I try not to imagine\nhow [[easily]]\nit will disappear\nwhen I'm [[gone]].
Each time I've done this\nwalked out \nfrom the blue-green house\ninto rain \na forgotten, essential part of me has [[returned|restored]].
Sera says, we'll need \n[[a shovel and a knife]]
That I see it too: the girl-fishes are not beautiful.\nThat they're allowed [[anger and sadness|can't]].
As a child\nI only ever [[uncovered]]\nmy face and hands.\nEven at night alone.
Every few months \nI cross the sea for the [[mainland]]
But that she will not remember\ntracing her fingers along the fish-shape \nthey [[cut|seen it]] from me.
Ruth Jenkins
Thirty of them, \n[[faces and limbs]] \ncracked\nfrom exposure\nto salt and the wind.\n\nTheir [[eyes]] \nturned away \nfrom the sea.
The doctor calls to say \nSera has woken.\nThe memory loss is probably [[temporary]]\nbut the worst has not yet passed.
The person on the beach\nis closing their sketchbook slowly,\ngathering their things, \nreturning to a life\nI know nothing of.\nAnd I [[hope]]
But as she sits with her head bent over\nlost in her painstaking work, \nI want to know the small details of [[her life]].
I do not remember what I was [[running|forest]] from.
#sidebar {visibility:hidden} \n#footer {visibility:hidden} \nbody{background-color:white;color:#006064;font-size:65%} \n\n.passage .title { display: none } \n\n.menu div{padding:18em 0;}.menu div:hover{cursor:pointer;background-color:#fff;color:#343434;}#passages{margin-left:2em;border-left:0 solid #333;padding-left:0;} \nScales
I've seen the girl-fishes drawn [[before]]. \nSwimming [[free]] and careless.
Sera says \nthere are always traces,\nnothing is ever lost \nif you are paying [[attention]].
Turn each container around. \nSo thirty pairs of girl-fish eyes \nstare down the city.\n\n[[◊◊◊|End]]
3. Statues\n\nWhen I was twelve years old, \nI [[fled]] into the [[forest]] at night.
She'd made a room at the university once, \nthe walls and ceiling dripped \nseabed blues and reds, \ncolours that would stain\nwhen you tried to [[leave|passed]].
The first night we met with the doctor,\nMarcie explained\nwith hands clasped tight together\nthat she is Sera's wife,\nand I am Sera's girlfriend, \nhave been for thirty years,\nthat I should be allowed to [[visit]] like family.
My mother kept shells just like these\ndeep inside her bedroom cupboard\nunder layers of [[sheets|uncovered]].
I threw my [[paintings|Statues]] away.
Sera calls the illness \na looping dream.\nOf carved girl-fishes,\nthe first of [[thirty years]]
I carved out little spaces of time \nto learn about her [[work]]. \nSnuck off to the university,\nslipped in as though \nI was allowed to be there, \nsoftly dropped books \nout of low library windows \nread them through my [[night shifts|Statues]].
Afterwards, she told me histories of [[colours|room]]. \nEven now the divers \ngo down into the sea\npull the violet or green \nfrom crushed eggs and [[bodies|passed]].
Each night, I return to my [[work|forgotten]].
I saw the sculptures again \nwhen I was fifteen, \nfor some [[parade]].
5. Scales\n\nIn this city, the sea is always the [[horizon|horizon2]]\nthe lights of ship-wrecked boats [[stars|stars2]].
Marcie has always kept out of the way. \nCleaned and cooked and \nfrom the [[beginning]] \nI thought her balance and stability\nnecessary to Sera,\nbut Marcie herself interchangeable \nin a way I was [[not|creases]].
Sera taught me to think \nin new forms\nrough and layered,\n[[scale-like|work]].
The nurses tell me the body \nremembers when the mind does not. \n\nThat Sera is calmer after my visits, \nand sings to herself quietly in the [[fish tongue|Body]].
She knows she cannot find them all,\nbut treats this as a problem to be solved.\nMore letters to write,\nmore maps to search \nfor pencil marks and [[creases]].
Sera taught at the university\nHistories of canvas:\nthe people who weaved and bleached \nto make [[blank surfaces]].
We'll go at night to the old beach.\n[[Loosen]] the rusty screws\nholding the metal containers in place.
Said she still doesn't understand \nwhat it means for something to be [[lost|passed]]
She asked, \nwhat does it mean, \nthis desire to create\nas though writing with [[light]]. \n\nWhat does it mean,\nthis desire to move so frictionless \nacross this oil-smoothed [[space]].
And then only to say\nshe'd never made a [[human figure]] again\nafter that [[loss|At the hospital]].