TRAMMELS

by Meghana Ravi

I.

At sunset

I watch the fishermen pull their nets in from the sea:

tangled thicket of twisted knots

wrangled by weathered hands well-suited to this art.

 

The fish—

Their silver scaled bodies shuddered and shuddered on that shore,

Like swimmers who dive without dipping their toes.

 

I feel the lash of cords tightening against my skin.

I feel the burn of oxygen in my lungs that demands what

only water can provide.

 

Mouths flop open and shut,

listless;

in time with the slowing pulse of the world.

Yet still it spins.

 

II.

To be flotsam

To exist without this mosaic of memories under my skin.

Everytime I forget he reminds me again.

Each recurrence is another loop—

Another tied off knot.

Dead end.

 

III.

A cage has collapsed into a net and

now it trails everywhere I walk.

It gets caught on the strangest of things:

an image, a sound, a song,

wine, a certain tone of his voice, and falling water glasses.

 

My hair

gets stuck in doors and chairs

And I understand now why some women just

chop it all off.

 

I contemplate error and escape strategies;

search Google for how to slice open a net with

only a ballpoint pen and its cap.

Reminded how one time,

to get to the clementines

I sawed and sawed

until I could rip it apart with my hands.

 

IV.

My chest contracts.

Oxygen loops around an

empty place.

Lying on the beach with the grounding

grit of sand

pressed into my cheeks.

And the fishermen carelessly shake seaweed from the net.

Saltwater spray stays on my tongue.

 

I shudder for

there is no escape from the bruises under my skin.

The marks the lattice has left

everytime something

reminds me of something else

and it tugs at the cords around me.

 

V.

I go out.

Fishnet tights and red lips again.

I walk in circles at 1 AM.

 

It is in the way I lingered at the back of the class

on field trips until everybody had gone ahead

except me and

waited desperately for someone to turn around.

 

It is in the way I played hide and

seek in department stores

without telling my mother first.

Slipping under the racks stuffed with

gauzy prom dresses, lace spilling out the sides.

A quiet unfulfilled expectation that my mother

would push aside the veil and say,

There. I found you.

 

VI.

And he wants to be loved like an old god—

revered and feared all at once.

Inconstancy the idiosyncrasy he shares with the sea.

And I am but a paper boat in the midst of

tropical rage.

I rise and fall, crumble and sob, ink bleeds

and bleeds.

 

My life has become before and after, but

I am not your Iphigenia—

essence and dignity on the altar every time

your sea throws a temper tantrum.

 

You have caught me once

(I know your tricks)

Twice

(I know your truth)

Thrice

and I will slip away for good.

Meghana Ravi is a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University, studying Molecular and Cellular Biology and creative writing (under the Writing Seminars Program). In her free time, she enjoys reading, yoga, and hanging out with her friends.