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Ocean of Ash by Kirsten Perry | Word Riot
Creative Nonfiction

August 16, 2012      

Ocean of Ash by Kirsten Perry

I begin to undress, let the night taste me piece by piece. I have brought you to the shore, to the place you loved most. The water is cold as it drinks in my toes. I open the urn, feel the crunch of ash trapped in the seal. The wind whips me, takes some of you; I pour you into my palm. The ash is softer than I expected, yet coarse with specks of bone. I cover myself in you, spread you across my nakedness. Down my arms, legs, across my stomach and breasts, into my hair. I drop the urn in the sand; black blue water rushes to meet it. I watch as the water fills the void of you. Taking my first steps into the Pacific, my legs scream with the fire of it. The waves are calm as I wade in—my breasts float and I stand there with you. My body burns with the cold, my teeth knock around in my skull until I can no longer hear your voice. I submerge my body in the salty brine and scrub away what remains of you.
     Emerging, I gasp for air; my lungs fill with needles. I crawl to the shore, sand clinging as you did. I pump my arms and legs in panic. I pull my knees to my chest, the sand scrapes against my numb nipples and I laugh at the absent sensation. Laughing warms me and I can’t stop. I crawl to the place where I shed my clothes and put them on over my sand-caked body, laughter still bubbling from my frozen lips. I sink back into the sand and watch the waves reflect the moon. The wind freezes my hair and makes my head ache. I smell of seaweed and salt, and all I can think of is you.
     The last day of your dying you had awoken to tell me it was snowing. I went to the window hoping to see white flakes falling from a black sky, but there was nothing. I went back to you and told you there was nothing there. I watched as I took the wonderment from your face. You refused to believe and I couldn’t tell you it was true, though I should have. Telling you that the snow was falling, was telling myself that you were dying; I couldn’t.
     Later, when you had fallen from me, I went outside trying to escape your gaping mouth and the putrid smell that filled the room with dark sweetness. I stood outside in the cold night air drawing in breath after breath, when I felt the first flake. My breathing slowed, and I turned my face to the midnight sky, let the soft whiteness chill my face and draw from it the fire of my pain. I sank to the ground, and let the coldness keep me warm.
     I went back to you and whispered to you of the snow, letting you know you were right, it was snowing and I was covered in proof. I thought watching you die that night had been the hardest thing I was going to have to face, but watching the tide roll in and out as I sit on the shore brings an ache all its own; and the bitter taste of losing you, the taste of letting go.

    4 comments to Ocean of Ash by Kirsten Perry

    • I loved the visuals in your story. I’m a huge fan of being hooked from the first sentence and you succeeded in that task. I can’t even describe what an amazing picture you just painted for me. Loved the rubbing of the ash on the body and then getting in the freezing ocean to wash off and let go. Thank you.

    • M. Sage

      Very much liked this haunting tale. Well done.

    • Beautiful, heart-breaking, and poetic language. The story is filled with powerful imagery. Really enjoyed this piece!

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