A shell, her home
so brutally shattered —
maroons a tender soul
adrift in open water.

Cold. Afraid.

And self-protection
makes an unwilling warrior.

A noble mother.
Sword unsheathed.

And broken hearts
make an unyielding will.

She battles sorrow and joy and birth and death,
all that is vital.

Captures all of them, (save the tide).
And holds fast with the strength of steel,
but her woman-child fingers,
spread wide and sieve-like,
give way
and the waves break through.

She tumbles and tumbles
and tumbles
awash with water and salt,
drenched and stunned and defeated and numb.

Shorn of her command
the current controls her path.

Shorn of her command
she floats
seemingly astray.

But shorn of her command
the ebb and flow resume,
warmth is restored and
she feels

Caught among her fingers
a shell
and life begins again.

Melissa Dempsey is a mother, grandmother, wife and sister who lives in Suquamish, Washington. She is a former teacher and student of Columbia University’s Reader’s Writer’s Workshop, who is now working on an MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University.  Beside reading and writing, she loves theology, swimming, the tall trees of the Northwest and all things related to the ocean. What she has learned about life is that it is uncertain, ambiguous, changeable and full of surprises.