Venus of Neptune Beach, Cassie Hottenstein

Home is the rush of high tide.
Foam churns at her feet,
sea the color of black tea taken
with frothy milk.

The sky smells of mild morning musk,
a familiar tang pressed against her lips.
Waves beckon; she begins the daily ritual,
her bath, sacrificing herself to the salty brew,
freshly freckled skin puckering in the cold,
steeping.

A backwards Botticelli,
she returns to her watery womb,
mother brine rushing to meet the lost calf,
combing her hair into tendrils,
alive in the humid zephyr.

So this is peace, this daily return,
the kitchen clatter of crashing surf,
shells set out like clammy teacups, sea biscuits and jellies,
breakfast with guppies who feast on her toes and fingers,
a gentle assault of kissing lips.
Submerged, she brings her knees to her chest,
again, an embryo, unwilling to be cracked.

Yet the kettle is left too long, boils over, turns to ice,
and reality scrapes her clean across the gritty floor.

On land, gulls scurry after washed-up treasures,
and miniscule claws clasp for air out of the sand.
Spring waits with a towel,

tugging the teabag with an invisible hand.
Her back arches as she’s pulled along the seabed,
left dripping, discarded, at the shore,
where supposed life waits, her purse, the blinking of missed calls, and

swaddled now in terry cloth,
she wrings her hair out to dry and licks her fingers after,
swallowing salt, promising tomorrow’s visit
as Atlantic sings her goodbye.

*

Cassie Hottenstein has a BA in English and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of North Florida. Her poetry and stories have been published in such places as The Talon Review, Every Pigeon, Inklette, Solid Mercury, and the Tampa Review Online. She was a lead editor for the collection Exothorpe as well as an editor and researcher for Anyways, That’s My Story. She currently lives in the Boulder area, and her absolute favorite poet is E.E. Cummings.

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