Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the torso of a woman with the tail of a fish...

I sat down on the tram
directly opposite a mermaid.

I only realised that she was one,
(in more recent times)
I have kissed more than the salt
from a mermaid's chest.

(I have also
massaged her perfect back
while she lay spread underneath me
like a beautiful starfish.)

The mermaid across from me on the tram
notices my stare,
sees in my eyes the recognition
of who she is
and where she has come from.

She seems uncomfortable
about her beautiful tail,
attempts to hide it
underneath her beautiful blue coat.

She looks around her longingly
(and with envy)
at all the other women's legs
on the tram...

I (too) in a different kind of longing
want to take her hand in mine,
reassure her.

Tell her
"it's going to be okay".

But I don't,
because I silently sense
everything is not going to be okay.

I do not wish to give her false hope.

The tram passes effortlessly
like a giant fish
through St. Kilda,

and as the doors briefly hiss open & closed,
the smell of the sea
fills my nose.

Glancing upwards again,
I see fishing hooks & nets
of numerous men
in her big, sad
sea-green eyes.

She touches her neck,
shivers, sighs,
glances downwards
at the floor of the tram.

I notice a small puddle of sea-water
appearing at the base of her tail.

In my head,
I hear the ghostly call of fog horns,
shrieking of gulls,
a captain's bell,
creaking hulls.

I close my eyes for a moment,
I am taken back to another time...

I am sitting on a tiny bed.
A woman sits opposite me.
I take her trembling hand in mine,
look her in the eyes and
tell her I love her.
She looks at me,
her eyes filling with tears,
and says:
"I think I love you, too."
All about the bed sea-water rises,
I hold her gently as she cries,
I feel her tears wetting
my neck and shoulder. 
I look around the room,
and see nothing I own
holding great value anymore.
All I need  and want
is right here in my arms.
The water continues to rise around us...

The sudden clang of the tram bell
makes me open my eyes.

I am back in the tram,
and sitting opposite the mermaid.

Our eyes meet silently again.
She glances again down at her tail.

I want to reassure her,
tell her that I won't give up her secret
to the other passengers
on the tram.

I open my mouth,
but the words fail me.

I wonder to myself
whether seahorses too
silently curse their beauty,

their allocated heads & bodies 
and silently wish to be
more like the other sea-life...?

And starfish?
What of starfish??

Do they wish
that they had been blessed
with any other shape

but that of constellations?

I too, at times
(although not many men admit it)
have often cursed this masculine physique.

Why would one choose to be
landlocked in this body of a man?

It is not what I would have chosen...

had I been given the choice
I would have preferred

The wings of an eagle,
the torso of a woman
and the head of a tiger.

Outside the tram,
it has grown dark now.

I am nearing my stop.
I pull the bell.

Looking over at the mermaid once last time,
I can hear my heart
beating in my ears.
She is the most beautiful woman
I have ever seen...

I search for the words to tell her
before I disembark,
but courage fails me.
I quickly fumble in the pocket of my coat
and pull out an old, crumpled envelope.

As my stop gets ever closer,
I quickly write a jumble of words
on the back of the envelope...

"If the stars up in the heavens
had just one desire, this is what they'd silently wish /
They'd ask for the torso of a woman
and the tail of a fish;

I am sorry that I (too) failed you,
I hope that you find a better, braver man than me /
And If these words that I write were waves
I would offer up for you the sea..."

The doors leap open!

I awkwardly manoeuver
my landlocked legs
past the mermaid,
thrust the envelope
into her trembling hands.

She smiles for me
a tiny smile,
more apparent in her sea-green eyes
than in her mouth.

I smile back,
and in that moment
I somehow narrowly avoid
slipping in the tiny pool of sea-water
at the base of her tail...

And for that briefest of moments,
I sense
she loves her tail again.

Our eyes hold onto each other
as I boldly step backwards
down the tram steps into the street below.

Metal doors snap shut.

I get one last look at the mermaid
before she and the tram
disappear into the murky night,

much like a fish disappears
into deeper waters.

I feel an ocean of pride & courage
swell within this fragile
Watersign frame.

And as I lightly step towards home,
thinking of the mermaid,
I feel a tiny shudder

in the eagle's wings on my back...

(c) Brent M Harpur, 2013.

"When the mind is at sea, a new word provides a raft." (Goethe)

"Oh, that I could shrink the surface of the world, so that suddenly
  I might find you standing at my side." (Wang Chien)

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