to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
— ellen bass, the thing is

i am ophelia. she who the river could not hold.
— heiner müller, hamletmachine

[joan] shouldn’t have been able to do what she did. ride at the head of an army. lead men into battle. be victorious. a year earlier, she hadn’t known how to ride a horse. she’d practiced by riding on the backs of her father’s cattle. she taught herself to ride in the few weeks she lived at neufchâtel, while she worked at the tavern of la rousse, when her family was fleeing the burgundians. she had never worn armor, and the armor weighed sixty pounds – a much heavier burden on the body of a short woman than on the body of a tall man. she did what she did beside men who had trained for it since early childhood. she had never studied tactics. she had never even seen a battle. but she knew she was a warrior; her voices told her she would lead men to victory. she harbored no doubts.
— mary gordon, joan of arc

you were burned, you were about to burn, you're still on fire.
— richard siken, crush, 'straw house, straw dog'

we were alone with each other at the bottom of the sea.
— frank bidart, half-light: collected poems; end of a friendship

as for myself, i am splintered by great waves. i am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. i find pieces of myself everywhere, and i cut myself handling them.
— jeanette winterson, lighthousekeeping

take me back
o drunken gods of slaughter
you know i've always been your
favourite daughter
— florence + the machine, cassandra

these seas shall take revenge. one day, i know it, these seas shall take revenge.
— odysseus elytis, “the kore the northwind brought,” the collected poems (trs. by jeffrey carson and nikos sarris)

that’s the second, and most important, thing you need to know about fairy tales: once a story starts, it won’t stop on its own. there’s too much narrative weight behind a moving story, and it wants to happen too badly. it won’t stop unless somebody stops it.
— seanan mcguire

what is it? am i more beautiful when i wear a gown of suffering? or maybe you think i’m more yours when you grind my flesh and soul in your ever-turning mills. does my sweetness lie so deep within me you need to cut me to find it? and what do you want with my sweetness, anyway, if all the honeycombs open for you alone, if all the honey is yours even before the bees sip it from the flowers?
— dulce maría loynaz, “poem lxxxiii,” absolute solitude: selected prose poems (tr. by james o’connor)

your eyes reflect the splendour of the storm.
— renée vivien, “victory,” so much love of death: a crown of violet

     i always wanted to be a saint
but i thought i’d be one of the miserable
ones     sainted by pain burnt alive inside
— kaveh akbar, calling a wolf a wolf, 'i won’t lie this plague of gratitude'

her creative process had been about tapping into her subconscious, but at that point it was absent: "it was just full alert all the time, there was nothing to tap into. and so as soon as i pressed a note on the piano, i just burst into tears. i didn't have words, i only had grief."
— florence welch, florence + the machine: beyond the fairy tale

but love is impossible and it goes on despite the impossible. you’re the muscle i cut from the bone and still the bone remembers, still it wants (so much, it wants)
— ada limón, bright dead things, 'in a mexican restaurant i recall how much you upset me'

rage is not to be avoided, diminished, belittled. rage is god. better believe my rage is steeped in love.
— shira erlichman, as quoted in jacqui germain’s when the ghosts come ashore

but never have i been a blue, calm sea, i have always been a storm
— fleetwood mac, storms

you will burn and you will burn out; you will be healed and come back again. and i will wait for you.
— fyodor dostoevsky, the brothers karamazov

out of the ash. i rise with my red hair. and i eat men like air.
— sylvia plath, lady lazarus

we know lilith ate
the bones of her enemies. we know
a bitch learns to love her own ghost.
— erika l. sánchez, “all of us,” poem-a-day

rotting like a wreck on the ocean floor
sinking like a siren that can’t swim anymore
— florence + the machine, “swimming”

you smiled, stood up, and came out into the sunshine. perhaps it was the light on your face, but i thought i recognized you from somewhere a long way down, somewhere at the bottom of the sea. somewhere in me. sometimes the light is strong enough to reach to the bottom of the sea.
— jeanette winterson, lighthousekeeping

and she has a big slit in her throat, and her head has been cut off–a double mutilation. otherwise she is perfect. she has great dignity and great presence and she is waiting. she is undisturbed. people do things to her but she can endure it, she can stand it, it doesn’t affect her, mutilated as she is
— louise bourgeois, “she-fox”, parkett no.9

i have always been moved by the madness of the sea.
— josé maría heredia, ode to niagara (tr. by william cullen bryant)

but you have to satisfy the monster.
the monster has loved you
for longer than anyone else.
— florence welch, useless magic: lyrics and poetry

monsters are fictional creatures, without personal agency or a will of their own. ‘[they] are our children’, they do what we tell them to do. in this respect monsters are doubly victims. they are victims of both the traumatic incident and the author who created them, and both condemn the monster to a lifetime of trial and an almost always unavoidable and grizzly end. the pen seals their fate even as it writes them into existence. but, despite the fact that we have, in most cases, refused them a voice of their own, the monster still speaks. it asks us what we are so afraid of. ‘[it] asks why we have created [it].’
— sarah malik bell, monster as victim, victim as monster: post-traumatic stress disorder, redemptive suffering and the ‘undead’

i am not the target. i am the archer.
— sophocles, antigone (tr. by seamus heanley)

she said, god is a holy machine that loves us so fiercely, so perfectly, he devours us, all of us. it is what we’re here for, to be loved and eaten.
— michael cunningham, "in the machine," specimen days

it's better if i think of my life like that - part miracle, part madness. it's better if i accept that i can't control any of the things that matter. my life is atrail of shipwrecks and set-sails. there are no arrivals, no destinations; there are only sandbanks and shipwreck; then another boat, another tide.
— jeanette winterson, lighthousekeeping

i lived in a house in moscow once, where the beams and floorboards were made from an old ship’s timbers. when there was a storm at sea, the timbers used to creak and groan, even though the air around the house was quite still. the house was very old, and those timbers hadn’t been near the sea for a hundred years or more, but still they remembered. in their dreams they heard it sing.
— cynthia harrod-eagles, anna

red is a thing i can trust — a monster and her wings, cattle grazing the sandstone hills like flames.
— natalie diaz, postcolonial love poem, 'isn’t the air also a body, moving?'

she carries the coastal wind in her teeth
and the furious sun in her mane.
— annie finch, “rhiannon,” spells: new & selected poems

there are no legacies in this life, are there? no monuments, no history. just the water. it pays us and then it claims us. swallows us whole. as if we’d never been here at all.
— hal gates, black sails

know the prayer of fury, & know more that it has always belonged to you. but be careful. it will only make you hungrier.
— topaz winters, portrait of my body as a crime i’m still committing, 'guidebook for wild things wishing tobe tamed'

i turned around and saw the sky. it was red and all my life was in it.
— jean rhys, wide sargasso sea

i wish to be water
so i can’t be held.
— chelsea dingman, “in the months after we come home from the hospital empty-handed”

come near again, destroyer.
that i may look upon your face and it give me counsel
in shattering.
but it is i who approach and i believe i see him before me.
behind the mask scented with carnival violets.
isn’t it urgent to know him before he breaks my bones?
but he takes the question out of my mouth,
he disarms me, scattering me like almond flower petals…
— philippe jaccottet, seedtime: collected notebooks (tr. by tess lewis)

the murderous innocence of the sea.
— william butler yeats, a prayer for my daughter

whatever's burning in me is mine! [...] and i'll split this town in two and everything in it before i'll let you put it out!
— toni morrison, sula

beautiful, beautiful; the sea and the sun and this blessed pouring heat which i adore, and the long warm nights with the moon.
— martha gellhorn, selected letters of martha gellhorn

the sea hides its dead. because what lies below must stay below.
— alejandra pizarnik, extracting the stone of madness: poems 1962-1972: the shadow texts (tr. by yvette siegert)

sometimes the call of a bird is so clear
it bruises my hands. at night, behind glass,
light empties out then fills a room and the people in it,
hovering around a fire, gorgeous shapes of wind
leaning close to each other in laughter.
from this distance, they are a grace,
an ache. the kingdom inside.
— joanna klink, the graves

you wanted to be a medic, but realized you're a butcher. so abandon healing before you start hurting people.
vincas mykolaitis-putinas, in the shade of the altars