Voices on the Wind
Voices in Tribute
by Leslie Clark
I donít know how old I was then,
seven, maybe, entranced by the ocean.
One day I floated on my sea-blue raft
in my azure one-piece swimsuit,
only my tanned arms, legs and face
a contrast in the monochromatic scene.
I was drowsing, cherishing the sun
as it caressed my back, lulled by the Atlanticís
whisper and gentle rocking beyond the breakers,
never realizing that I was almost out of sight
of the gossiping adults on beach blankets.
Distant shouts bolted me upright and I saw the shore
far away, my family mere dots with gesticulating limbs
I desperately paddled, my flailing ineffectual
against the current. Then a person I identified
by her dark cap of hair as my mother plunged
into the waves, her strong arms evenly stroking,
her powerful legs churning the seaís surface.
I was sobbing by then, aware of possibly
being beyond reach of rescue, of drifting
alone into the unknown beyond.
After what seemed like hours, she came within reach
of the raft. Honey, are you okay? she gasped,
while treading water to catch her breath. Speechless
with tumultuous emotion, all I could do was nod.
After a while, her breath evened. She grasped
the raftís rope and slowly but powerfully towed me in,
her sidestroke just as commanding as the crawl she used
on her way out. I was awed by her fortitude, her determination,
her willingness to save me from my own heedless act.
I was convinced then that she was a marvel, a heroine
disguised in a third grade teacherís unassuming form.
I held that belief for years, until in my teens I realized
she was human, with all the foibles we possess.
She fell for a sleazy con man, tearing our family apart
and for a while, I lost respect for this amazing woman.
It took years for me to gain it back, as I witnessed
her struggle to survive the aftermath of her ill-fated romance
and carry on, in spite of financial and emotional turmoil.
By then, unbeknownst to any of us, she had only a couple
of decades left on earth. Her sudden passing left me with
immeasurable regret for the time we had spent estrangedó
in geographical distance and emotion.
Now, years later, I smile when I glimpse echoes
of her face and form in my mirror, and can only hope
that her unvanquished spirit carries on as well.