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Sara Elkamel

Mythical Flood

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In your dream you are wrecked on a rock in the middle of the Mediterranean. Your skin turns pink; your hands, which are already small, shrink even more. The rock is also pink, and on it are lifeless plants and remains of other things. You are so wrecked that when you extend a foot, it reaches the Red Sea. You are so far from everything, especially, from me. You see a woman walking towards you, blue cloth swaddling her head, carrying something you can’t quite make out. Both you and the woman succumb—in the slightest of ways—to waves, not of water or coming at all from any of the two seas, but something more like tremors in the picture. The tremors mean any step she takes towards you is also a step away. The sea comes closer to you than I could—it is braver maybe, or has fewer reasons to fabricate loss, and contemplate its ease. At the end of your dream you are less wrecked, and I nowhere in sight.



Telling the dream, you wave your arms forwards and back, your legs forwards and back, displaying an activeness (and a panic) that is entirely missing from the image we have created here.



Of course, because I am reporting on an art exhibition of which the subject is water, I choose blue paper to write on, no matter that the writing will not show, especially that the only pen I have is also blue. It’s good the words I note down are mostly useless—like: “political” / “water submerges even itself” / “strong relationship between form and subject.” Is writing a flat medium? I think, to waves of panic. On the way to the gallery I notice: the whole sky is white. A row of bodies bends slightly over the green fence of a bridge I am crossing, gazes down with calm curiosity. Men park their vehicles, and women like black masses float towards the edge. Over the spot in the water they all stare into, a bird that had changed course hovers. “work in progress” / “conceptual rigor” / “how to extract and translate stories from bodies of water.”



Editor's note: "Mythical Flood" first appeared in print in Michigan Quarterly Review.


after Noor Naga

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All the fish rose to the surface of the sea to watch me grieve, which is ridiculous, because it wasn’t even over yet. I keep forgetting I am an ocean, you said, and night fell like a picture frame off a loose nail. I tried to translate ocean. I tried but not very hard. I was distracted thinking well the body wants what it wants. Later I came up with ravenous, dangerous, and absent at night. That last one killed me. I couldn’t help it—for days I slapped my chest and wailed something sad like oh, my love left me and took my eyes, should I cry for my love or cry for my eyes????? My hand nearly came out my back. And you just sat there and prayed. Became one with the floor. Nose and kneecaps and throttled breath prostrate. I had never seen anyone do it like that before. I wanted a way back. I weaned palms from chest, waved my arms and called it dancing. Here, get up, I’m dancing. Even joked I was swimming. You looked at me and thought for sure I was drowning. I thought for sure you were safe, I said and you said what ocean is ever safe? So I spoke to you like water. Didn’t know what else to do. Said carry me? Sustain me? Give me both your eyes? Not that kind of ocean, you said. Even the fish said fuck that.

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