Amputee of the Red Sea

By Melissa Dalton-Bradford

October, 2007
Sharm el-Sheihk, Egypt
“But the Children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.” Exodus 14:29

I’m watching bodies
from where I sit at the end of the pier, knees tucked up close to my chin,
heat blurring todayandthen.
These bodies float face down, strewn like the drowned dead across this,
the Miracle Basin.
Nothing, not even these happy snorklers, can keep me from
weeping behind black lenses.

And you roll up right beside me.
Roll right up within inches and
raise yourself from your chair,
raise yourself with shoulders as imposing as the Sphinx,
raise then brace then whisk yourself down onto the pier to sit
at my side.
Just one thin plank divides us.

Your legs end midthigh.
All torso and profile, you overfill my peripheral field, and in
half a breath I feel to be
your companion in deficit.
My tears stop. Then my legs suddenly shame me.

I would speak to you. I would turn my shoulders, clear my throat, take off my glasses
and I would speak to you.
You’re here, too, I would say, just sitting and watching,
Cut in half as I feel  

And how did yours happen and when and how have you made it
And will we ever know joy, we who are so chopped down

You fling yourself into the blue,
splitting the Sea with arms like windmills,
arms that, with each plunge,
whip droplets of miracle water onto my shins.

Footnotes Amputee 
Just three months removed from family tragedy, Melissa and her family were strongly encouraged by friends to escape Munich’s gray autumn drizzle for the heat of the desert. The bereaved cannot escape grief, however; it follows them everywhere. The last day by the Sea, Melissa saw an amputee. Minutes later, Melissa quietly slid herself into the deep, the first time she’d completely submerged herself in water since her son drowned.

About Melissa Dalton-Bradford

(Poetry Board) Melissa Dalton-Bradford resides near Geneva, Switzerland with her husband, Randall, and Dalton and Luc, the two youngest of their four children. (Their daughter, Claire, has just returned from serving a full-time LDS mission in southern Italy. Melissa served a full-time mission in Austria.) Geneva is the eighth international address Melissa and her family call home, having resided in Vienna, Hong Kong, Oslo, Versailles, Paris, Munich and Singapore. At the time of this printing, she and her family are moving to Frankfurt, Germany. Alongside having performed professionally as a soprano soloist in the US, Europe, and South East Asia, Melissa earned a BA in German and an MA in comparative literature (BYU), and taught German, humanities, English and writing at the university level. She is an award-winning poet and essayist, and is an active public speaker on living internationally, family, loss and grief, spirituality and women’s issues. Most recently, she has published her first book, Global Mom: A Memoir, and her next book, Loss & Living Onward: Collected Voices for the Grieving and Those Who Would Mourn with Them will be released in May of 2014. That volume is a substantial work on loss, grief and the power in communal mourning, and is a tribute to her firstborn, Parker, whose untimely and tragic passing at the age of eighteen redefined her life. Her most consuming passion is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and her family is, by far, her most satisfying creation.

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