Thallassophobia Vana Dougias Poetry

local_library Thallassophobia

by Vana Dougias

Published in Issue No. 239 ~ April, 2017

I remember when I was first tall enough and old enough to take a shower. The deluge, the sense of drowning, a total distraction from the objective of getting clean. The stillness and innocence of the bath a distant memory.


I was sixteen, my brother ten, and he bounded from behind all of us, who were saddled with towels and beach paraphernalia, and cannon-balled into the deep end of the Bahamian resort pool, not knowing how to swim. My aunt laughing, until the reality that he might drown compelled her to jump in after.


The wet swelter of the hot tub. Subduing, consuming, nauseating. Dissolving slowly in the chlorine broth. Just on the other side of the fence, the boundless ocean.


In Greece, when Mom swam out far far into the clear blue until she was invisible and my breath held until she appeared again, many minutes later. Angry at her for giving herself up to the whims of fate so easily, without hesitation. A miss-taken breath or muscle cramp away from annihilation, hers, mine, and ours.


And we would be left with Dad, whose water fears keep him on the beach, who cannot enjoy even the suggestion of abandon, or adventure. Has he ever lived a moment without dread? Is her swimming out an act of aggression, transgression, immaturity?


My niece and nephew rolling in the roiling surf of Ballard’s Beach. For her, the waves are a magic carpet, for him, a constant, violent slap. He refuses to go beyond the point where the waves crash. He is named after my father. The other side of the island is known to be a breeding ground for Great White Sharks.


The ferry home. A titanic, engorged sunset.


Treading water about five feet deep, the occasional swell above my head. Against my being, I have been cajoled into entering the murky death soup of a Cape Cod beach. Sand monsters gaze greedily at my heels. All about me, the sharks swarm, jellyfish pulse and drift. I am my father’s daughter, but I am in the water.


Postcards from Santorini. My brother throwing up in the theater during the first scene of Jaws 4. Flying over the Atlantic in a Buddhist peace courtesy of Xanax. The view from Alcatraz.





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For the past fourteen years, I have been teaching English at a public High School in Massachusetts. Prior to my teaching career, I worked as a freelance writer for an educational publisher, and as a researcher and writer for a local publishing company. I have a B.A. in English from Boston College, and M.A. in British and American Literature from New York University. I am currently interested in pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and am in the process of applying to several low residency programs. Thank you for reading and considering my work.