Outsider,
by Meg Harris

“…if thou subdue the thunders to a tone of murmurous gentleness, and taste the sweet, love-rippling features of the river at thy feet.”
Kalidasa

Orcaella Brevirostris

It’s said that when the little queen walked barefoot on the delta she made a trail of blossoms from the hedgerow to the sea. Others insist the deep blue shade of Iravati’s blood colored the river, touched the sky and the river-dolphin’s hide. Born Kasyapa’s grandchild and like that creature: her eyes open, mouth of pearly teeth and thin skin.

My family visits a water show to witness a dolphin called Sapphire, throw her sleek body toward the sun and through a flaming hoop. A spout opens and saltwater spills from my eyes not melancholy or some feigned emotion, instead a cellular

recollection awakes in me. I was privy to a sacred telling by this silent mammal. A history we shared yet could not speak. As the way to fly in dreams is a matter of remembering. Tourists visiting the Mangrove forest often doubt the yarns of local

fisherman who net along the Irrawaddy River. One, Saikat, looks forward to fishing with a pod each day; he is familiar with individual animals by their temperament and the scars they bear. For a dolphin is tattooed by the map of its life story.

On a day like today Saikat watches his dolphin-partners herd a school of fish into his waiting nets. They bound into the air, sending out great plumes of water which sparkle in the early sun. And the creature’s sleek blue skin is glazed with light

and water. At dusk the fishers pay the dolphin; dumping a share of the day’s catch into the river. They say the girl queen was covetous the night she left the king with his new bride. Some believe Iravati wandered the sacred river where it

spills into the Andaman Sea. There accounts of Kadru’s daughter end. But visit the Sundarans and you may witness swans lingering at the water’s edge or hear the song of flightless birds. We took the children again to view the dolphins. I read in the

park until the show was done, certain my tears would blur my vision to watch the tale my storied cousins told. In the quiet outside I was taken up in reverie of a minor queen whose divinity is not remembered or believed. And who rode a swan out to

the deepest part of the cove where she shed her swathe to swim alone. Or was she met by wise friends who knew her unfortunate tale and revealed the gift of her escape? My daughter says the dolphin’s brain is the same size as a human’s. But the

cerebral cortex has much deeper folds. I think of scrolls on which an ancient text lies and love stories that end differently than told. Days ago, thousands of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins were seen leaping in great clusters near the mouth of

the river named for a lost princess. Local scientist called the find “a miracle,” since it was thought that just hundreds of the blue creatures remained in the wild. Like the Irrawaddy dolphin, Sapphire and I are hidden, sheltered within a sea change

manifest by an outsider Queen, a secret Goddess worshipped by only a few. Watch us leap the seas and rivers, spouting water and bearing witness to our scars bright as tattoos.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 2.

Meg Harris is a writer and a teacher. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts Meg teaches literature, writing, poetry, critical thinking, & ESL. Her short stories, essays, and poems have appeared in both print and online journals including, Whiskey Island, The Cafe Review, Upstreet, Willows Wept Review and others.

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