Naming Phoenix by Sara Dobbie

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Waist deep in the slate gray waves of a Great Lake, a woman is wading. When the loss of Jacob becomes too heavy, she drifts out here to float. She steps into a blanket of seaweed, dips down, startled by a lone diving Tern. Remains submerged, drunk on the depths surrounding her. The faded morning moon draws her like the tide, but she resists. Blurred faces in the scattered windows of beach houses peer out at her, one here, one there. She knows they wonder about her, but she pays them no heed.

She understands that for her, water will be the end, as it was the beginning. Her mother, having opted for a water birth, had unwittingly forged a bond linking her daughter irrevocably to rivers and lakes, to creeks and marshes, swimming pools and bathtubs. Nothing could keep her away from them, and her mother called her a water baby. She stretches her body to its full length, kicks her feet gently, to avoid a splash. To honor the silence, out here where it seems that dreams are reality, where her inner world has materialized to immerse herself in.

If she is water, Jake had been fire, had been the sun. He had been, townspeople whispered in the grocery store. He was, said the voices travelling over telephone lines. He isn’t anymore, she reminds herself each time she opens her eyes to the decorated urn on her nightstand. He was born in a flame, he’d told her, on the night of a great bonfire. Raised to rub sticks together, to spark radiance. Died as a blazing conflagration licked his flesh into liquid, melted it right off his bones.

He made her burn like nothing else, eclipsing all others. She shimmered and sparkled under his brightness, like the surface of the sea under the beams of the sun. She used to pour herself over him to calm his anger, and he could shine at her to evaporate her dismay. The faces in the windows worry that she might drown, that she is drowning. They do not know that in sorrow, as in water, she can tread endlessly.

When the sonorous voice in the pulpit had boomed ashes to ashes, dust to dust, she thought, Jake to ashes, Jake to dust. Out here, unmoored under the sky she can transmute his dusty remnants into glowing embers, can see him again, in the face of the fiery orb. Can close her eyes in anticipation of his coming warmth.

And so, each morning in the gleaming predawn she swims until the sun rises high above her, until she feels heat burning her skin. She swims until her feet cannot touch bottom, rotates and bobs, her hands grazing the subtle swell of her belly. Communicating like a sonar device with the life inside there, instinctively aware of the name she will bestow upon it.


Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her work has appeared in Menacing Hedge, Trampset, Emerge Literary Journal, Mooky Chick, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. She has stories forthcoming in Knights Library Magazine and The Lumiere Review.

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