Lustful, lascivious, lecherous males!
They sickened her, with their slithering, slimy,
serpentine overtures.They thought to caress
with their stubbled chins
That scratched and reddened her skin
and sought to impress
with the urgency of their pressing.
And she was powerless
to humble their irrepressible egos
That bragged of their prowess
and mastery of Eros. Far easier
to stupefy the lusts of human Men
unaccustomed as they were
to the maids of Mer. Come then, sisters.
Let us rise above and drive to madness
with beckonings and promises of love.
The veil of night will lend its dim allure
while we glow bright, our purpose sure.
They waited, shivering, in the evening warmth,
the air sucking at their skins,
and each breeze blasted their delicate hide,
each breath a raging fire inside
till the gentle urging of the tide
delivers their prey, and now the game begins.
The song insinuates into their bones
like tentacles of mist.
The sailors shiver with chill pleasure
at the wistful measure
that draws them inexorably down
to a cold hell
where their flame will forever be quenched.
Yet there is one, fresh-faced, a boy,
undeserving of punishment,
no master of the cynic’s game.
But he of all the gaping, foul-breathed,
leering company leaps at last
while, mesmerised, horrified, the crew is passive.
Strong men are grown weak
as babes, the sea-grave cradling
the youth, drowning in a false embrace.
The chase is over now.
No more thrills
entice the mermaids to linger.
Come with us, sister, and leave him be,
poor, pathetic fool!
Even now, he seeks salvation;
hope and disbelief vie together.
But they are tired of play, and so
All but one, the impulse strong
to breathe back life into this dead meat,
remains to seize and carry upward
the still-beating heart in its ivory casket.
She commands, and he, in his helplessness,
obeys. They reach the shore at last.
But he is warm and sickly.
If she could cure his fever
with cool pallor, perhaps he would revive?
She mirrors his image, breast on breast,
hand on hand, tail on tails,
and draws his warmth to herself.
And something curious, wonderful, occurs;
now warmed and living, the fish-tail melts away,
weeping its nature back to the sea that gave it birth,
and a new creature is born, vibrant, exciting,
quickening the pulse of her captive,
stirring to life the hidden tail
that seeks its home.
She, passive, mesmerised;
he, weak as a babe.
She commands, triumphant;
he, helpless, obeys.
But how can she gloat, victorious,
when he is humbled?
Strange irony, that she could hate
and loathe all others who felt
as she did now, and feel such tender love
for such a weakling?
And thereby hangs a tail.
First published in ‘Reach’