one o’clock:

west wind slips on silent shoes

whispers off to bed

possibly not in Heaven

but in my neighborhood all

is silent for an hour

At two o’clock

with an audible pop

her eastern sister rattles

over my roof in un-sensible shoes

hurls herself, a desperate thief

against my window pains, clatters

among remains

of a later-than-is-wise dinner party

on my patio

settles in to sing over and over

the one line from that song I can’t banish from my mind and she knows it:

“swimming in your veins

like a fish

in the sea”

By two-thirty, I am thinking again of the mermaid

The tabloid cover

on the wind-

and sun-battered newsstand

strewing itself like driftwood

across Short Sands Beach in York,

Maine had pictures—

not drawings but pictures, I tell you

of the creature

who shouldn’t

exist,

can’t exist but

there she was in lurid newsprint-blurry colors

printed from the eight-by-ten glossy

you can see the original

down at the York Museum of Atlantic Wonders

hanging beside a tightly-lidded mason jar filled

with her remains

But that’s not what keeps me awake

they first saw her, much alive

swimming

a childish face, they said, torso of a young girl,

oddly heavy in the breast for one so young

hair an unkempt mane, raucous

with North Atlantic kelp

and Krakenweed

her body’s lower half a North Atlantic Salmon and she

was still alive

and grotesque

and beautiful

A boy threw stones

at her, they say, gathering them one-by-one

like tourists plucking shells and sand-dollars

from white, white sand,

gathered and aimed and missed, aimed and missed, aimed and

hit

witnesses say she dove

disappeared with a porpoise’s stride

into North Atlantic breakers combed

pure

and white

and clean

two days later,

sky and sand and sea swept

clean by a down-east wind,

they found her

body

broken

and impossible

on clean white sand

But that’s not what keeps me awake

I went to the York Museum of Atlantic Wonders

later, when I could be alone

with her

stand before her cheap transparent casket

read the hand-printed label

see for myself the intricate magic

lacing a child’s body

to an iridescent-gone-pale Atlantic Salmon

Oh, she was real

she is still

so

real

But that’s not what keeps me awake

on nights when east wind

creeps through darkness pawing

window panes

stealing my sleep

and singing

not the graceful white curve of her clean white child-face

not the eyes staring from inside a jar into eternity

not the terrible knowledge such magic exists

No.  What keeps me awake is this:

in the watery dark

on her bed of kelp does her mother reach

and not finding her there

wake and wish

she could brush her daughter’s hair from her cheek

once more

the way the east wind combs the North Atlantic waves?

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