Ocean’s Daughter

sixteen years in the eternal water 
in the frigid skin of the ocean’s daughter 
stealing glimpses of sunlight and moments of breath 
to escape the weight of the fathomless blue depths 

i stole scraps of humanity for my aching soul 
i built temples for false gods and pirate gold 
and worshipped what I could never hold 
in my secret refuge, i dreamed my escape -- 
to break through the surface ‘til the wind touched my face 
to find something to love in man’s embrace 

he fell into my ocean like an answered prayer 
the first gasp of breath in a world with no air 
and when i dragged him from the stormy sea 
i convinced myself that he rescued me 

on the sun-drenched shore, i watched him sleep 
the kind of beauty that makes angels weep 
the son of daydreams and fever-dream flashes 
delicate fingers and salt in his lashes 
warm skin gleaming like a gold doubloon 
silken hair haloed in late afternoon 

the waves gave chase relentlessly  
the current implored me to know my place  
but i ignored the siren’s warning plea  
for still i dreamed i could outrun my fate 

i clung to him to keep from drowning  
and watched seaweed grow around his ankles  
we dwelled in impossibility  
and let our restless souls entangle 

we built a sandcastle for weekend lovers 
and drew another life within its walls 
where he was not bound to another 
where i could not hear the ocean’s call 

sweet prince, 
if my scales were flesh, 
if my blood ran warm, 
if longing alone 
could make me transform 
if my body could stand to dance on your shore 
believe me --  
i would dance with you forevermore 

but when I opened my mouth to declare my love 
no words could form this perfect lie 
for my body knew what my heart still denied 
still i prayed his kiss would transform me  
into the sort of girl who could be his bride 
but no creature can run from destiny’s tide 

she chants my name like a sacred song 
and floods me with her midnight spell 
with skin of silver and hair of stars; 
she reminds me what i know too well 
she envelops me in seductive waves  
and claims me in her slender hands 
and carries me back to my watery grave 
to a destiny untouched by man 

now his memory still flickers in my darkest dreams 
the only true treasure in my trinket collection 
an intangible relic of childish curiosities 
a secret memorial to my misguided affections 

forgive me, prince, you were far too kind 
to a little mermaid who lost her mind