She used to speak in tongues of the sea,
Harpoon-edge in her voice hidden deep
Under the deception that comes so naturally
To a daughter of the waters.
For she was taught, like all her sisters,
To mimic the melody of the tides,
To wrap the storm within in a million layers
Of velveteen times two.
Once a sailor caught her sunning herself—
Threw a fishnet upon her bosom,
Whereupon she, used to rich aquamarine
And glittering pearl, peeled herself off
To sing him sweet his swan-song.
His fibulae she used for drumsticks.
When the prince came she was in a foul mood,
Fouler than the storm that brought him to her knees
(If she'd had knees).
And in her lap he chanced to hear a heavenly dirge
Ringing long and low, even as he relished it for
As long as it was heaven, he did not care what it was.
She smiled with her teeth when he was lost again,
Ripped off her scales one by one
And slit her own throat to mute the cry
Of gaining appendages.
The salt on her cheeks reminded her of how love
Was like a razor-sharp looking-glass.
He welcomed her as befit her beauty,
Kissed her red mouth with all the fervour of a cannibal,
Paraded her around his court like a jewel of the Orient,
And spoke at her in the trivialities of the old Romantics.
Then, dead serious, she found him in the arms of another
And her skin began turning green again, oily and slick.
He was happy to gift her, she who did not belong to him,
In the manner of a present to his false saviour.
(She did not decline).
She did not pity herself.
She had decided to serve him, and serve him she would
For she was a mermaid of her words.
Come wedding night, dancing like the devil until she bled,
She crept upon their bedchamber, caressed the princess
And carved the prince.
At long last she had his heart in the palm of her hand.
It was as sweet as the stories had promised.
His liver she bestowed upon his wife.
When daylight glittered upon the horizon
She lay on her rock again, whole once more,
Laughing with her scarlet lips at the rising foam
That continued to obscure the mourning ship from her gaze
As she caressed softly the sutures on her neck
With the bones of his fingers.
And so she freed the storm within in a million verses
Of dulcet tone times two.
This work has been published in Beetle Magazine's August 2020 Issue.