Will you watch the waves?
by Sophie Cohen
There is nothing outside besides a wandering hum.
Some animal’s song, maybe my own reflected out the window.
It tells a story if you listen – Listen.
I want you to listen: a sailor sails a sunfish sailboat
Up the length of the Charles and down again. Up and down.
Like a painting I like of an old man watching waves,
Sailboat coming in from mist over sea. He wears a ruddy hat,
A coat of brown leather. If you stand to the right
You can’t see the boat he waits for. It's my grandfather waiting.
The boat comes from my world to his.
If I close my eyes maybe I will wake in the room with brick walls
And velvet blanket where I sleep. If I close my eyes maybe
I will wake in black river water, under sailboats that travel
The waterway between worlds. If I close my eyes maybe
I will hear that song – sing quietly: I don’t know if I like the tune.
I don’t care if nine years is too long. I don’t care if a month
Is short, or a week. There is only so much you can learn
From the shape of my body, my back molded into your chest.
From taking off my clothes, looking into my eyes
While you love me, and afterwards asking nothing.
You touch the scar under my arm with your fingers.
That’s all right: it was a tumor once, but it’s gone now.
I don’t mind your fingers on my skin, if I close my eyes.
It’s all right, if I close my eyes. Look at me, you say.
But it’s easier if I look away – and there are words I need to say:
I remember the first night I slept with you. Afterward I cried
And you didn’t know why. I was wearing a checkered skirt.
I stopped on our way to dinner with my hands in my hair,
Where your hands had been, remembering how he asked me
To wear a checkered skirt. All that time ago. And you didn’t know.
I remember when you said you’d love me in the shower.
I remember after, my back bleeding but numb all over:
I took a shower. When you loved me in the laundry room
Over soap bottles late at night. When he did the same
In a classroom: bent me over a desk and I didn’t speak. I couldn’t fight.
Can you hear?
The world is waking. I know you’ve been watching me sleep.
I know you’ve watched the world wake up, and me.
But if I sing that outside song, will you love me still?
If I tell you what he’s done, will you do the same –
And if in fear I turn away, will you wait for me?
I could go to the river. Sometimes, I wish for the river.
I wish to live in black water under the bridge
Where boats travel from my world to the edge of the world,
Where I could see people pass, see him pass by someday,
See if I can help my mom along someday, guide her through the waves.
I have a skirt in my closet I think you’d like.
It’s checkered red, like a little girl wears to school.
I think you’d like it on me: I know you like my body,
And maybe I’ll wear it for you someday.
Maybe the scar under my arm will smooth over, someday.
I’m tired: you’re telling me to sleep.
And if I do, what will you do? Will you watch the waves for me?
Will you tell me if you see him, if my mother needs a guide –
And will you do for me what I can’t do?
I know. When I wake I’ll sing my song for you.
About the Author
Sophie Cohen is a junior undergraduate at MIT studying physical applied mathematics and creative writing. She has studied writing with Lise Goett, Micah Nathan, Kym Ragusa, and Edward Barrett. Her poem "When I Got My Ears Pierced" was published in the Zingara Poetry Review in August 2019. In May 2020, her poems "Five Lives" and "Hands Touching" will be published in the 30N print anthology. Sophie is an enthusiastic member of her sorority, Alpha Phi.