The Mermaids Disquisition by Beth Hartley

“you are standing in a terracotta city. A mermaid appears and hands you an essay”

I am not washed up but dried out,
on this baked dry plain.
The earth cracked beneath my feet,
my feet cracked beneath my limbs,
my limbs cracked beneath a body craving water.

The façade is as Petra;
carved and caved
moulded and smoothed by hand and wind.
Cut to shape
until I reach the gate
and see fissures running
stem to stern;
the binding showing through
the daub is drier than my skin,
and I am growing
crusted in this place.

From this badland rises
one who does not belong.
Her lines belong to the shore
her tail to the depths.
Before I can wonder
she hands me woven pages,
threads of dulse and glass
and I look her in the eye.
“I have been here too long” she rasps
“it is too late for me.”
“Please, I beg you traveller,
I wrote this for you to see,
My carapace is forming
and soon I will be no more,
This here is my treatise
on why this must restore.”

As I stare
I see the sea-skin forming further:
she will become encased.
I start to read
and she is gone,
her words unravelling before me
until I no longer feel the parch,
and the sea tangle given
washes over me.
“We have not learned the sea” it says
“we have only taught the land.
It is time to let the water back
and inundate the sand.”

Drained and drawn, depleted
we are the leachers, all.
My mind reading, words unleashing floods,
washing away the cracks and earth
creaking, crashing into waves and swell.

The surge lifts me away
the silt rinsing off me,
my moisture level lifting on the crest.
My lasting memory will be
the flick of fin and scale
in the corner of my eye;
A mermaids purse of words
with a handful of red sand.

The opening quote is from Twitters @MagicRealismBot and was used as a NaPoWriMo prompt.

Photo by Ken Cumberlidge

Beth Hartley is a poet of people and place; the transient and the eternal. She makes: – home, faith, work, words and dinner. Itchy preacher, always Mama. Fen Speak co-pilot – organising and hosting Ely’s main poetry night. Independent organiser at High Street Poetry.

Twitter: @beesmade

Facebook: PoetryBees and FenSpeak