Cetaphobia

Poetry

by Ryleigh Wann

The Atlantic air keeps me awake. 
It happens often, eyes alert in my darkened


room, body tossing and turning like a wave in tune 
with a riptide, seizing me as I stir and struggle


to remember how to breathe in new waters.
Tomorrow, I will be exhausted. I consider how 


I hate sharing my bed, how I want everyone 
and anyone in my bed, moaning like a blue 


whale’s song seeping into summer, or a crying relief
from the stranger I let navigate my sheets.


Coo me back to sleep, don’t touch me.
Gargle my bones, blow them back out.


The roots of this fear tangle my lungs. Suddenly I 
am five again in a basement furnished with Mother’s fetishes


of wooden whales and deep teal vases,
watching Pinocchio with Opa


sobbing at the scene where the whale swallows 
the puppet, sharp teeth glinting. Nights in bed


where the Atlantic air suffocates, I can’t help 
but envision myself swimming and suddenly, a whale–


he doesn’t intend to, of course he doesn’t—
takes a big gulp of water, whisking me away


through his weird, husky teeth into the stomach
where I live the remainder of my days rotting away 


with krill. Devouring me like the stranger in bed
or the strangers before and the strangers ahead—


ravaged, trapped, held prisoner
in the belly of some intimate creature.

Ryleigh Wann is an MFA poetry candidate at UNC Wilmington. When she isn’t writing or
reading on her balcony, she can be found playing with her dumbo rats, missing the Midwest,
roller skating, or exploring nearby swamps. You can find her writing forthcoming in Press Pause
Press, Emerge Literary Journal,
and Kissing Dynamite. Follow her on Twitter @wannderfullll

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