Katy E. Ellis
What once washed over me, comes again, and goes, like the grays and orcas, like tides and moons, the desired and detested, what gives way and got away. I escaped not only a country, but a childhood of spindly crosses to bear. A path of mangled Bibles. I crossed the Forty Ninth Parallel like a little girl hell-bat, surprised to be changed by nothing but a manmade border. I can still feel my hemispheres part. Feel North a rush of steelhead, South a sweep of sargassum mirrored in waves. Feel beneath Cedar River’s gravel bend, a flush of roe.
People know La Pincoya by her octopus—bright green with flailing limbs and round blank eyes hand-painted on the white mainsail by the previous owner’s girlfriend. Whenever we’re out on the water, the townspeople wave or shout like pretend pirates, Ahoy, La Pincoya! A homeless home, she seems to belong everywhere and to everyone. To get here she sailed from Chile on waves like a liquid staircase. She heaved always forward without regard for the invisible rungs she climbed—the Tropic of Capricorn, the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer—on her northward course along the Pacific coast and into our Salish Sea.
Good as Home
Where you from again? Joe asks. He’d forgotten I was an American. When I tell him I grew up in Washington just outside Seattle he waves me off as if I’d mentioned the next village over, says his people are from Washington, too. He winks at me. Don’t worry, he says. You’re as good as home. He says I’m as good as home and I feel a few shards of my calcified guilt for leaving home drop away. I pick them up and rub them together in my heart until they start a little fire, like the lanterns that hung before people decided to build sturdy lighthouses, defining the water’s edge to sailors with nothing but a flame.
Katy E. Ellis grew up under fir trees and high-voltage power lines Renton, Washington, and is the author of three chapbooks: Night Watch—winner of the 2017 Floating Bridge Press chapbook competition—Urban Animal Expeditions, and Gravity (a single poem), which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry appears in a number of literary journals including MAYDAY Magazine, Calyx, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and the Canadian journals PRISM International, Grain, and Fiddlehead. Her fiction has appeared in Burnside Review and won third place in the Glimmer Train super-short fiction contest. She has been awarded grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, and Artist Trust/Centrum. Katy co-curates WordsWest Literary series, a monthly literary event in West Seattle, where she lives with her husband and daughter.