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Ocean, Alive

Tight stomach lining
Bloody hangnail holding on
Blue glow of a screen: 2am, 3am, 6am
scrolling through other lives

Practice the breathing your therapist taught you

(you are floating in the ocean,
bumping, wave after wave)

eyes itching
close them, lose breath
between tongue and teeth:
find a spectre of space

A thumping of the brain
           days seeped in salt
           boat beneath bridge
           stitching up your lungs
           to keep the wetness out,
           fighting waters
           you drowned in

Are you drowning,

On Self-Reliance

She remembers her grandfather:
blurry blue eyes,
a voice she has

until she hears him speak
in grainy VHS,
his words pitching her into
childhood, a rough hand
stealing beets from her plate
so she wouldn’t have to eat them.

Her father mentions him
sometimes. He was a mechanic,
made his kids change a tire
before he gave them
the keys.

When she turns 16, her father
hands her the manual, steps back
to watch. She gets black streaks
of grease on her legs,
rips the sleeve of her favorite sweater
trying to use the jack, but she
puts a tire on her car.
She is given the keys.

Years older, she has forgotten
how to change a tire.
She calls her father
and his voice, familiar as the
sweater she patched and keeps
in the bottom drawer of her dresser,
walks her through the manual
(worn, greasy, smooth pages).

She puts a tire on her car.
She thinks of her grandfather
as she drives home, of what
he taught her
after he was dead:

how to change a tire
how to breathe
in the dark.

Vanessa R. Bradley (she/her) loves fantasy novels but manages to write a lot of poetry about dirt, divorce, and discovering queerness. She lives in Epekwitk (PEI) with her wife, where she is working on a collection of poetry about the meaning of flowers. You can find her on Instagram @v.r.bradley and on Twitter @vanessarbradley. 


  1. Annette

    Evocative and beautiful. Your father and grandfather come to life.

  2. Anne

    Absolutely wonderful, as always. I love Vanessa’s work.


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