Isabel Soto

Isabel Soto

Isabel Soto – I’m Madrid-born, London-raised and -educated, and currently a retired academic living in Spain. I’ve been in academia most of my working life, specializing in Afrodiasporic writing, particularly that of Langston Hughes. I’ve continued to research and publish but creative writing beckons forcefully: while not abandoning the words of others I now make space for my own. Passager Books, Literary Mama and MsLexia have allowed me to share that space.

The Day The Dolphins

We’d just seen them. Fins flashing in and out of the water, south-leading snout. The overtoppling waves cast a dark shadow. That was all. A small pod, said J. Inconsolable, I kept looking. The silent paddle-boarders came. The becalmed tide held their buoyant flatness, standing figures silhouetted against the blue, oars dipping in and out, steering towards the uncertain rim between sea and sky. I entered the clear waters and swam with fish. Rippling lozenges held the sun and waves, barely unfolding and landing on the shore. My unsteadiness welcomed the modest rhythms. I didn’t fall. I swam.

It begins with a stiffness of legs, thrusting and spreading no longer but kicking and thrusting as one. Arms circling and coming to rest by thighs. The body is resolved: a stretching and rounding of head and nose, fish womb now expectant. Air and sea mine to choose, I look for others like me. I look above but more beneath, seeking curious, hungry peers. I thrill as small fish, clams, crayfish scatter and vanish in the sand. Gulps of head-inhaled air return me to the water, translucent as the above water. I look for others like me. The long, flat shadows beckon. A kick and a plunge and I’m lower than. I breach the surface and leap into their path, arcing my back and chattering my name as I dive again and again.

The sea cleaves to us, easing our passage towards the bending horizon, unreal brink. The retreating sun sweetens the perilous bidding: “Come,” says the horizon. The shrewd, noiseless oars make space for me. We escort one another and the ready breach lets the sea into the sky and us

After Frank O’Hara

If The Sea

          “[The Franco authorities committed] the worst possible crime 114,226 times
          against a human being: forced disappearance.” Spain’s Association for the
          Recovery of Historical Memory

If the sea doesn’t move
I won’t see them
People braced on the shore looking
not pointing. We stop—
Look, they are there
They are close
rolling fusiforms emerging
Flashing fin
The unturbulent waters
                                                                                Pointing bottle-snout
South-leading mandible
Black shadow of waves unfurling—
I look again for the vitreous mass
of cetacean congress
                                                                                The stilled sea declares absence
I cannot see
But I saw them I saw them
They are there even if
I cannot see
Even if the sea doesn’t move
My mother saw them
Years ago
Distant but closer
                                                                                than Ibiza & moving
We didn’t believe her
Will the unstirring dead lying in the unmoving ground
By the roadside
In ditches
In cemeteries
Claim their right
                                                                                to move

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Poetry in this post: © Isabel Soto
Published with the permission of Isabel Soto