My Fear of Water Came Later

Poetry / Natalie E. Illum

:: My Fear of Water Came Later ::

My family doesn’t like the desert air.   
We prefer low-tide to high altitudes; 
coastal highways to mountain. We don’t ski. 
We charter. We choose our bait with precision.  
We don’t let the lines go slack. We hunt the Mako 
because we can.We don’t relish 
a shoreline. We forget  
we live so close to 
what most would pay dearly for. We aren’t  
moved by the stunning sunsets. My father 
named his boat Bite Me. 
That isn’t a joke. We made fun of  
my mother. Whenever she said I pacifically  
told you not to do that.  
She wasn’t born here, but she is a water sign. Said if 
I’m drowning  
I should 
try to play dead and  
hope the Coast Guard finds me in time and  
face up. We don’t fear the riptide 
we live in. We just  
call our flying dishes fish.  
We imagine all our broken  
glass finds its way 
into the Atlantic  
for some sweet kid to discover; our arguments  
finally smoothed enough  
to call treasure.   
Look how pretty we are  
now. The light hits us  
just right. 




From the writer

:: Account ::

How much of one’s life becomes flu­id over timemem­o­ry as salt water, paint, fear? These poems are held togeth­er by the car­ti­lage of the pastit weak­ens, bends and some­times heals over time. But there is still a film, scar­ring from any tear. Here is a slide show of stains through­out the body of my house.


Natal­ie E. Illum is a poet, dis­abil­i­ty activist and singer liv­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. She is the recip­i­ent of three Poet­ry Fel­low­ship Grants from the D.C. Arts Com­mis­sion and a for­mer Jen­ny McK­ean Moore Fel­low. She was a found­ing board mem­ber of moth­er­tongue, an LGBTQIA open mic that last­ed 15 years. She com­pet­ed on the Nation­al Poet­ry Slam cir­cuit and was the 2013 Belt­way Grand Slam Cham­pi­on. Her work has appeared in var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions, and on NPR’s Snap Judge­ment. Natal­ie has an MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing from Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty and was a Teach­ing Artist for Poet­ry Out Loud. You can find her on Insta­gram and Twit­ter as @poetryrox, and as one half of the band All Her Mus­es, whose debut album is being released this Fall. Natal­ie also enjoys whiskey and giraffes.