Salt. Semen. Shore. Semaphore. Semiquaver.
She was still a baby when her mother died though as she grew she would stand on the shore and search for her for hours, year on year, sometimes standing so still so long that her feet sank to her ankles in the doughy sand and her eyes hurt from the glare.
There was a shore where your eyelids met that shone with salt sometimes if you squinted after you swam, diamonds of light so sharp they stung like nettles if you stared too long. Jellyfish lazed like transparent parasols in the lapsing surf, viscous as sperm. "And what is sperm like?" precocious she, age three, asked her father after he told her where babies came from. Salty, he said, like the ocean and smooth like egg white or jellyfish. "Can I see it?" she asked. It embarrassed him, then made him angry when his girlfriend laughed. When you marry, he said, when you marry.
It was a confusion. She thought that sperm was a shore and she could find her mother there like a mirror. Where babies came from. In time she saw sperm and knew she would never marry. In girl scouts she learned how to send code by semaphore and from time to time for years after would stand at the edge of the sand where the surf curled like lace spelling out the letters of her mother's name. She did this idly, without belief, in the way other people prayed.
Like a girl at the edge of a dark creek signing the words "love" and "silence."
As a teenager she would snorkel and dive down, trying on the thick ropes of weed like her mother's jacket. By that time she knew the stories of mermaids, naiads, and sirens. Back on shore she would weep a high howling that quavered like blues notes among the darkening waves. She became a strong swimmer out of grief.