Review: “The Sea Change” by Neil Gaiman

4 of 5 stars.

This lovely lyric poem captures the movement of water, sea and rain, from its opening lines:

Now is a good time to write this down,
now, with the rattle of the pebbles raked by the waves,
and the slanting rain cold, cold, pattering and spattering
the tin roof until I can barely hear myself think,
and over it all the wind’s low howl. Believe me,
I could crawl down to the blackwaves now,
but that would be foolish . . .

The narrator was born of a fisherman, but promised his mother not to follow his father into the sea after his father “drown in fine weather.” But upon her death, he takes her savings and buys a boat and crew. The descriptions of the toll enacted on the body by lobster fishing evoke flashbacks of the television show Deadliest Catch.

But what compels the narrator to tell his story some twenty years later, are the events of one particular day with a moody sea–his last on her.

The day I write of now, she was shifty, evil-humored,
the wind coming now and now from all four corners
       of the compass,
the waves all choppy. I could not get the measure of her.
We were all out of sight of land when I saw a hand,
saw something, reaching from the gray sea.
Remembering my father, I ran to the prow and called aloud.

No answer but the lonely wail of gulls.
And the air was filled with a whirr of white wings, and then
the swing of the wooden boom, which struck me
       at the base of the skull:
I remember the slow way the cold sea came toward me,
enveloped me, swallowed me, took me for its own.

I tasted salt . . .

The poetics, mostly repetition, assonance and consonance, but also varying line lengths, beautifully convey the tumultuous actions therein. This melding of content and form makes for a very pleasurable read.

This story appears in the latest anthology edited by Paula Guran, Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, published by Prime Books. “The Sea Change” first appeared in Smoke & Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions (Avon Books, 1998).
[Check out my other reviews here.]

2 responses to “Review: “The Sea Change” by Neil Gaiman

  1. Pingback: Graphic Children’s Book Review: The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman | Jaffalogue

  2. Pingback: Short Story Review: “The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman | Jaffalogue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s