Jan/Feb 2004 Poetry

The Love Song of a Mermaid

by Amy Taylor


The Love Song of a Mermaid

We will swim then, me and me,
When the moon remakes the sapphire blue sea
Like a glass globe at a medium's inquiry;
We will swim through swaying glades of green and purple,
In a dancing circle
Of spirits lithe from forest ecstasies
And Bacchus floating beneath the trees:
Glades that beckon like a clear, rippling river
Of ever changing content
To lead you to an answer without even a question...
And still, we want to know "Why is it?"
So, once again, we make the visit.

On the strand, people say hello
Speaking slightly in falsetto.

The grey rain that mews its hope on to the windowpane,
The grey mist that mews its sorrow to the windowpane
Pours along the gutter of glistening concrete,
Winds its way into the echoing drain,
Calls to all who hear and pity its plight,
Eludes nice hands, hisses at kind feet,
And knowing that it is a wretched, stormy night,
Makes a dash for freedom down a dismal street.

And indeed there is no time
For the grey rain that drops from the ledge above,
Mewing its hope on to the windowpane;
There is no time, no time
To create a face to love the faces we would love;
No time to be hideous or great,
No time for all the thoughts and fears we have
That knife and fork our heart upon a plate;
No time for me or for we,
And no time for a passion beyond reason,
And no losing of one's mind for a season,
Before picking up the kids at three.

On the strand, people say hello
Speaking slightly in falsetto.

And indeed there is no time
To wonder "Do I dare?" or, "Do I dare?"
No time to explore rooms beyond the stair,
With tweezers I pluck the gray from my hair—
(And they say: "Poor thing, she's gained so much weight!")
In my new sweater, and jeans that now don't fit so great,
My scarf bright and artsy, showing an informed and cultured taste—
(But they will say: "She is always running late!)
And I wonder if they believe in fate,
And if I dare
To share with these mundanes?
In 80 years there isn't time
For learning and relearning the life that a lifetime contains.

For I've missed them all already, missed them all:—
I've missed the twilights, moon rises, golden noons,
I've ached to live my life in larger rooms;
I've missed the eyes looking into looking eyes
That open like the door out of a tomb.
        So how can you and I commune?

And I've shed my clothes already, shed them by—
Clothes like old layers of secrets that obscure,
And when I am naked, eager to jump in and swim,
When I am swimming naked and you stand clothed and dry,
What if I should on a whim,
Dive deep to seek the shimmering blue question?
Would you continue with the scheduled lesson?
        And how should you and I commune?

And I have felt these arms enclose me, felt them close—
Arms that offered love to me alone
(But also claimed that I was theirs to own.)
Was it pheromones or my soul
That tied me to that pole?
And if I forgot the sea and gave myself to you once more,
        Could we then commune?
        And how would we resume?

                        .    .    .    .    .

I can't say I haven't walked at night down tree lined streets
And seen the mean glare rising from TVs
Of tired people drowning under dishes and laundry...

I should have been an Amazon warrior
Dancing under a pirate's moon at midnight

                        .    .    .    .    .

And on the beach, a grey mist paces past the door,
Stalking a weakness in our plans,
Angry... Intent... shut out by nice hands,
It yowls to us from the downpour.
Don't we, busy with children, dinner and home,
Wish it would drown and leave us alone?
Yet though we lie and deny, lie and believe,
Though we cherish our love (grown slightly bald) and so deep in need it flatters,
We are wild women—and truth's all that matters;
We've been called forth to ride the waves and sea foam,
Beckoned to cross the formidable blue all alone,
And we found we were relieved.

Yet, we might have had a comfortable life,
With the talks, the arguments, the tears,
Among familiar things, among the quiet weight of years,
All could have been made snug,
By quieting the longing with a loving hug,
By embracing the role of a sweet, pretty wife,
By never thinking of all the uses of a knife,
By saying: "I am Santa Claus, come from the store,
Come back to love you all, and I shall love you all"—
If you, relieved from doing the daily bore,
        Would say: "You're just what I want, after all,
        You're exactly it, you're all."

And, I might have had a comfortable life,
All could have been made snug,
Even knowing the seaweed, and the shark caves, and the sand castles,
Even with the narwhals, and the otters, and the crabs that crawl the ocean floor—
Even knowing this, and more—
It is not difficult to explain away what I've seen.
And if I were to deny the lives of all the people I have been:
We could still be made snug
If you, looking up from a computer game or the paper,
And seeing a sweet façade would look at me and say:
        "You're exactly it, you're all,
        You're just what I want, after all."

                        .    .    .    .    .

Yes, I would be Ophelia, or was meant to be;
Am a pretty, nice girl, one that will do
All of the laundry, and the dishes too,
Take Zoloft each day; drive the kids to school,
Unstable, but tender, hard not to resent,
Childlike, and intense, with puppy eyes;
Full of dark longing and bright merriment;
There are times when I'm so strangely wise—
Times I know to lick the Fool.

I grow bold... I grow bold...
I shall wear dresses of silver and gold.

I will have to leave you then. I mustn't serve you my peach.
I shall leave my too tight jeans in a pile upon the beach.
I hear the mermaids calling to us each.

I know for me it's time to go to sea.

I'll dream I see you plodding through the sand
Like a God on earth whose strength knows no lack
Looking at me with eyes so dark they're black.

We have lingered long on the fringes of the sea
Sleep walking in water where the waves break
Till spirit voices shake us and we wake.


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