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Dredging by Asha Dore | Word Riot

December 14, 2014      

Dredging by Asha Dore

I was four when someone crept onto the front porch and stole the stone lions that rested their chins on either side of the concrete porch stairs, their stone faces staring out at the long Florida moss that hung from the huge front yard evergreen, the tree with the split trunk. I’ve lived everywhere since.

The northeast, the west, the mid atlantic. So many coasts. The lions must have come from a universal mold, because I’ve seen them on porches in every city. Any of them could be ours.

Beach scenes painted on sand dollars and starfish. Palm trees painted on empty wine bottles. Conch shells covered with pink and blue glitter, an abstract sunset, set it against the shell of your ear, remember the howl of home. Souvenirs pulled from the ocean, the gulf, the territory of gills and scales. Build your own terrarium, aquarium. Capture the water in a clear box. Drop in the fish. Hermit crabs. Eels. Plastic reefs. Tape an underwater photograph of a real reef to the glass. Watch the creatures swim back and forth, their mouths against the glass, tasting the membrane between their tank and the home they can never enter. Feed them. Contain them. Make them stay.

Free Bird – Dad wanted me to play it at his funeral. He bought me a guitar, electric Martin, sunset orange to red to amber to brown, but I never learned to play, and he didn’t have a funeral.

Free Bird – On the radio, classic rock station. Dad humming it while he drove me to Applebee’s after my night photography class at the community college. I opened a manila folder filled with pictures I’d developed from old rolls of Dad’s film. People at a party in the 70s. Waves of light and smoke. Dad told me who each person was. Which ones had died, which ones were still alive.

Free Bird – Playing on an old boom box behind us on the dock while we dropped his ashes into the translucent teal waters of the Gulf.

Free Bird – Sucked away from our ears by the beach wind and nearby construction, someone building a hotel after the last one crumpled in a Spring hurricane.

Free Bird – Just the chorus, the pitch long whine mixed with the seagulls, Dad’s ashes on the soft waves, some of them sinking down into the sand, some of them floating out deeper, the waves working against the current, the waves bringing them back.

Lions toast: cut a hole in a piece of toast, fry and egg in the middle of it. As soon as Mom learned I’d eat it, no matter what she put inside, she filled the toast hole with everything. Chopped turkey with gravy after Thanksgiving, melted cheddar cheese dotted with diced onions, venison chili, mushroom chicken, creamed corn, shrimp and vinegar, anything in the shape of a lion, the square toast hair, the disorganized face, the temporary animal on my plate. All those features I can barely remember.

Blue eyes big belly chestnut hair whorls whorls three or four cowlicks, never managed, brown beard with a little square of white under his bottom lip. Deep voice scratchy voice voice like a strained guitar. Khaki shorts. Cut off jean shorts. Tourist t-shirts from Key West and New Orleans, t-shirts with pictures of crawfish fucking or One Tequila Two Tequila Three Tequila Floor or a t-shirt from some old bar, one he’s visited for the last thirty years even though he stopped drinking, he visits them to remember the people who used to meet him there, his old friends, the ones he lost. Easier to find the way their bodies moved the way their voice hit his ears the way they touched each other, maybe a pat on the back or the chest or a swift hug before goodbye old friend, I’ll see you soon.

Three years after Dad died, hurricane Ivan stole the beach. The city government decided to dredge, to pull sand from deeper waters and deposit it onto the shoreline in order to make the beach longer, wider, to plant the dune weeds, to rebuild the dunes.

For the first few months, the new coast was filled with tennis shoes, beer cans, fishing poles, water bottles, broken coolers – all of it covered in barnacles and whipped soft by the Gulf waves. Later came the man o wars, those pearl blue bubbles, hundreds of them drying out on the new shore.

My father, my cousin, my aunt: all of them burned down to ash then dropped into the long waves. Is it because the world underneath is so different from our world? Shadowed and chilly and filled cold creatures who aren’t bound to the ground. Is it because we cannot breathe down there? Breath, that first push toward speech, language. Do we drop them in the Gulf because we have no words for grief? Or because our truest words are distant swells of sound. Vowels, moans lost when you push your face into the water, open your mouth, and let the sound throb out.

I kept a couple tablespoons of Dad’s ashes, kept it inside a film cannister, one of those oval ones from Mom’s manual camera, the one she sold after Dad died. I kept it for three years, through the hurricane, from Florida to California to Virginia to Massachusetts to Oregon, for ten years, for fourteen years. Taped the canister itself over and over, sealed for good, everything safe inside. The canister stored inside of woven wicker basket, the basket Dad bought in South America in the 70s, the basket Dad brought back to the states, kept until I was born, kept until I turned fifteen, kept until he died, until I found the basket, empty, at the bottom of his closet, until I filled the film canister with ashes, the basket with the canister. Everywhere I move, I carry the basket into the bathroom, hide it in the bottom cabinet behind half-full shampoos and conditioners that fuck up my hair, they’re too greasy and my hair is too fine, but I keep them, I keep them in case I will need them. I line them up in front of the basket, row by row, until it is completely hidden. The basket that is the size of my fist.

395907_297053023679494_2054026709_nAbout the author:

Asha Dore’s work has recently appeared in The Rumpus, Burrow Press Review, River Teeth’s Beautiful Things, and other venues. She is pursuing an M.F.A. at Eastern Oregon University with a concentration on Creative Nonfiction.

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