Monday, September 28, 2015

The Fickle Selkie


 
The Fickle Selkie




You came in on the wave
you left on,
dripping sleek and strong 
your secrets wearied in the foam.
You opened wide
your kelp drift eyes 
so I could see 
timelessly
the sea you plowed so long
 without a harvest
richer than sing-song.

We waltzed the wrecks
on dead men's bones,
and of 
the everything we found
we carried
nothing home.
I should have known
you'd leave as quick
as sea fret wrack
without a sound.
You are

nothing to me now---
your joys or griefs,
your warmth that fades
in the windy days
of a landsman's chill,
nothing at all of sea or land
less than the
 fine dust that seeps a sand
between lid and eye
to stab each blink,
an almost-nothing soon gone
in the rub of tears.

You are
nothing to me now
nothing, 
nothing at all--
no scrimshaw kiss
no oceanic salt-lick--
only a bit of bric-
a-brac decor,
the mounted skull
beside the door
of some strayed herbivore
who met its end in heat and thirst,
bleached and white and empty-eyed,
ant-cleaned of all the tasty worst.
Outside the walls

I cannot hear
the wave that crashes on
 your name
circling spray 
in wraithlike wreaths
around my lambent chimney tor, 

the smoke of cedars
 upward taking blind
into nothing
the burn of the soft wet skin
you left behind.

~September, 2015 







"Selkies ...are mythological creatures found in Scottish, Irish, [Icelandic] and Faroese folklore... Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land."
~wikipedia







Image: Näcken (The Water Sprite), 1882 by Ernst Josephson, public domain via wikimedia commons


14 comments:

  1. This is just wonderful, the play of the wave, and of wet and dry, here and now, nothing and everything. I especially love the stanza breaks, the enjambment, the sounds, the image of the ant-cleaned herbivore dead of thirst-- I am still not well, so haven't been able to read as closely as i will, but wonderful. Great title. k.

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  2. "We waltzed the wrecks
    on dead men's bones,
    and of
    the everything we found
    we carried
    nothing home."

    I want to carry that home. It's a beautiful, brilliant piece inside a beautiful, brilliant piece.

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  3. I liked the same section MZ mentioned, but let me just add that, after a long pedestrian (in more ways than one) day at work, not feeling well, what a genuine pleasure it is to come home and be able to read such top drawer poetry as this. The pain that lives in every line is hard to take, but in that bittersweet way of much of the best writing. This entire piece is masterful. It's a privilege to read such stuff.

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  4. This sings, maybe to a lyre, or something in one of those taverns by the sea. Perhaps in front of a fire so the chill is not too bad. There is such a strong connection I feel in looking into the eyes and seeing the sea they plowed - like sharing stories. It adds weight to the parture. Though the taking nothing with you feels a bit like no strings. And quite the bitterness felt too there in the end.

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  5. I loved the same section as MZ, beautiful !

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  6. Hey joy, coming back to read some more-- this has such a beautiful rhyme scheme and rhythm-- it rocks like a wave-- i like the lines mentioned by MZ but for me the very specific descriptions-- the following throigh of the metaphor are perhaps the most compelling parts-- all the sea references and the sand between the eye and lid which is like time and age as much as like sand and the almost nothing that still brings tears. But I really like the wod play the salt lick and the scrimshaw kiss and the tasty worst -- not word play truly but great combo-- and the different versions of nothing and almost nothing. Great pic-- I showed it to my husband who misread the title and thought it was the fickle selfie-- the person holding something strangely-- that was quite funny I tjoihht. K.

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  7. Ps -- of course that was before husband read poem.

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    Replies
    1. Actually, the Fickle Selfie would be an excellent title and topic for a poem. Not this one, but still. ;_) Thanks for coming back and leaving yet more encouragement and insight, k. Much appreciated.

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  8. This is a masterpiece, Joy. Such a bitter sweet farewell from one who could capture but not keep a selkie bride. I love every line of it but have to single out this image:
    You opened wide
    your kelp drift eyes
    so I could see
    timelessly
    the sea you plowed so long
    without a harvest
    richer than sing-song.

    I love the way you have mixed the elements in the plowing of the sea. You have taken an old tale and told it in a wholly unique way.

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  9. The sway of your waltz has a seasick edge to it, like one too many sips from a tankard, one too many "nothings", summed up in salty phrases like "ant-cleaned of all the tasty worst".

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  10. Aims for perfect in chantey-chanson roll of it, crossed by this history 'n' mystery of mnemory--a knowing that only gains its best boomy swells only after getting adulterated by the salt ravage of time. Or something. Anyway, you nailed not only the rapture of the selkie-dance but also the rupture of it, the haunting of a lyric by that waxed, long- waned moment. Reading it is like walking on an empty shore. The witch survives the drench, albeit in lines harrowed by depth (like that shell of a skull, still resonant with the echo of a music. The poem keeps that "soft wet skin" as relic. Magnificent work Hedge.

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  11. What a wonderful piece of writing... and of course the painting too, though another kind of water-spirit (happens to be one of my all time favorite paintings).

    Love the way you come to the picture of the bones of herbivore, I see those bones shining white on my retina.
    a bit of bric-
    a-brac decor,
    the mounted skull
    beside the door
    of some strayed herbivore
    who met its end in heat and thirst,
    bleached and white and empty-eyed,
    ant-cleaned of all the tasty worst.
    Outside the walls

    The tale of the the selkie really captured in the sorrow afterwards. So glad i passed by today.

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  12. I've read this a few times now, but haven't commented as of yet, to circle back - put my feet back into the sandy footprints, as it were. It rained here yesterday, to cut the heat, and the damp beach leaves those prints even far up from the waves. Kelp in layers was washed up; the selkie was just offshore, it seems, cavorting off Seal Rock, having left that skin behind. A beautiful pen ~

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, M. I remember that beach--in fact, I dream of it, or how it was in the dreamtime of forty years ago, anyway. I miss the smell of that sea, carrying the cargo of so much distance.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg