Saturday 15 June 2024

'Tidal' by Taylor Hamann Los

It was a Thursday when the women rose from the ocean. Or at least it was assumed they rose. No one actually saw how they arrived. On Wednesday the shoreline was empty; on Thursday it wasn’t.

At first, everyone thought they were sirens or selkies, but they were different. Each was her own tide pool, a body made of sea. Some had shells embedded in their skin; others had limbs of twisting coral. One, the one I thought was most beautiful, was woven from starfish. They stood at the edge of the water with arms raised for weeks, never shifting even when the waves of high tide lapped at their hips. 

Then came their decay: bodies falling apart piece by piece, the stench of rotting fish wafting across the beach. Yet they remained still as untouched water. No one witnessed them move—except me.

I snuck down one night to see them up close, despite my grandmother’s warnings that some secrets should stay drowned. Hoping for a glimpse of something—I wasn’t sure what exactly—I crept along the dock. For a while, the women did nothing. I was about to turn back when suddenly I heard a sound like the creaking of an ancient vessel. The woman made of starfish turned her head slowly toward me, then unhinged her jaw in a silent howl, agony etched into her eyeless face. Her body crumbled. I ran.

The next morning, the town buzzed with theories as to where the women had finally gone. I went back, expecting the beach to be littered with shells and coral and scales. But there was only one starfish dried and almost buried in the sand. I dug it out, careful not to break any of its fragile arms, and released it into the sea.

Taylor Hamann Los holds an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is currently an MFA student at Lindenwood University. Her poetry has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Parentheses Journal, and Split Rock Review, among others. She lives with her family and two cats in Wisconsin. You can find her on Twitter (@taylorhamannlos) and at

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