The Mermaid’s Lament

abstract 3
By Robin Steere Axworthy

I freely chose the bargain,
but if I had known the cost,
what it was like to lose my voice,
I would never have agreed, would I.

What is worth that price,
to be silenced like that,
unable to speak the thoughts
that rise up like bubbles
into your throat, out of your mind,
only trapped there without sound?

Well – one might as well try to hold one’s gas.
Can you imagine how that would hurt?
Yes, embarrassing as it is to let it fly,
pop, pop, pop – if mermaids could blush,
we would. Fortunately for us, the water
carries the smell away, but all the same
everyone can see the bubbles rising,
even at the balls and garden tea-parties.

Well as embarrassing as that is, imagine trying
to hold it all inside, having to hold it, no choice.
First would be pain, and then cramps —
then your gut would bust, and you’d die
from all that shit exploded inside.
Excuse my language, but I’m past politeness.

That’s how it is. Silenced, unable to speak love,
or anger, or how beautiful the water is today
or the way your favorite conch shell shone
this morning at dawn, or your fear
that the coral beds where we played
as children are dying
or the cruelty of the clamshells clamped
onto our tails at court dances so that every step
reminds us that our beauty is our wealth,
or the way I wish my sisters and I
could be as close as we once were, again,
swimming in schools in the clear sea –
all of that silenced, choked down,
backing up tighter and tighter
down into the throat, your chest,
until your breath is stopped –
your heart bursts at the end, you know –
nothing is worth that.

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