The Sea Never Says It Loves You

You could go to school with the sea
You might pass it in the hall.
Maybe it asks you out. Maybe a movie
      or a dance—the waves curling about your ankles
      People looking at you weird
      But the water is warm and the salt spray tastes your lips
And you say yes. 

You could marry the sea
Might be it brings you pearls,
Or bright lights on the horizon blinking red and green and white,
A school of dolphins each day at two
To make you smile.
But it never says anything
Because it is the sea. 

You could have the ocean’s child
A fish-pale, seaweed-haired shell
That splits you open and spills out
And you can watch everyone turn to catch it while you fall away.

You could walk by the sea in all seasons
The season of umbrellas and noise
The season of small dogs barking
The seasons of strange machinery digging at the shoals
The season of wind moving the water in new ways
The sound of the waves comforting. The sea is comforting in its strong silences. 

But you cannot ask the sea to come to you
      and you cannot tell it what you want,
for it is the sea, and it never really heard you
when it flooded the gates and overcame everything. 

And you are bathed in salt spray, wishing.
Wishing you were water,
or that the sea would whisper from a shell the name of the first song
      you danced to
Or say the name it gave you before it swallowed you up.

Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde’s novels and short stories have been finalists for six Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, three Hugo Awards, two Locus Awards, and a Lodestar. They include her Nebula- and Compton-Crook-winning debut novel Updraft, and her debut Middle Grade novel Riverland. Her short stories appear in Asimov’s,, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Nature, Uncanny, and Jonathan Strahan’s 2020 Year’s Best SFF. “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” (Uncanny, 2017), was a finalist for the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Award, and won the 2018 Eugie Foster Memorial Award. “A Catalog of Storms” (Uncanny, 2019) is a 2020 Hugo finalist and a 2019 Nebula finalist. Fran directs the Genre Fiction MFA concentration at Western Colorado University and writes nonfiction for publications including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and at

photo by Bryan Derballa

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