The waterfalls
are no longer polished walls
to scale. The water does
the work and you flow
through it, silver
with pink inside, saltier
depths ahead and bottom
sand, the secret straits,
the kelp and cold
water. You are growing old
for this, the sunlight said
to two young women
buried in the
sand—-old, Susan and Anna,
to be pure and build a
mermaid on the beach,
with shell-scaled tail,
and breasts dumped from a child’s pail,
and kelp hair; to kiss. But
the ice cold sea has
patience; endless
absolving waves, breaking, bless
any wayward daughter,
however far from
the grace of twelve—
embroidered into the selv-
age edge of the rolling
and unrolling cloth
of the tide is
an unbreakable promise
of sleek skin, pink inside.
Pale silver, like the
tips of waves in
moonlight, fast and cool and thin,
you remember the gray-
green blanket she lapped
you in when you
were too small to jump the slew
of falls, the ladders. It
is liquid grace, the
water around
you, when you are ocean bound,
the kelp and cold ahead
and the sea’s reprieve.

Cyd Harrell, 1990.
Published in Oxygen Quarterly No. 19. Further rights reserved.
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