The Mermaid's Song
(for my mother)
mother, our memories are made of water.
yours breaking at my birth,
spilling me out into the world.
a single tear on your cheek, a muffled cry
before you were awash with sleep.
they named me with my eyes shut.
every syllable escaping their mouths
sailed me away from you—
strangers even then.
at five, to own me was to give me away.
you murmured to me the song of the mermaid,
evil Jezebel, when i refused to let rest come to me at noon—
voice swelling with the strength of an oncoming flood,
summoning the sea witch to make me disappear.
eyes closing, bed becoming water, i called out:
mother! greeted by a woman's swimming silhouette,
sullen stare, the sharp strangle of her seaweed hair,
scales piercing skin, fangs digging flesh—a scream,
and then the sea's still moan.
i watched you leave, peeking from behind the living room chair,
my fingers dug deeply into the cushions
as if to form the map of your departure.
(roaring gray clouds would swallow you later, i knew).
outside, no shard of light.
the lashing rain parting wounds open
with the sound of rolling suitcases,
and the closing of the front door.
no warning of the coming storm that day,
only a reminder:
puddle islands on the asphalt
moving farther and farther apart.
the drought that followed your leaving
taught me this:
that to say absence
is to know the language of distance:
how the earth dries after the rain,
but not everything it drenches
becomes whole again.
By Sooey ValenciaQLRS Vol. 12 No. 3 Jul 2013