That hot summer

we were mermaids. Our skin was salt-glistened,

slick. Legs fused into piscine tails, and residual


memories of walking receded with each tide-turn.

Newly gilled, we stayed under for hours, spooling


s-shapes over and over. Sometimes we surfaced

to haunt rock pools, poring over the sea’s discarded


spoils. Faces immersed, we sucked in trapped sprats,

relishing the salinity on our greedy tongues, our teeth


picked clean with ruined crab-claws as we wallowed

in our fishiness. We were untamed, all tangled hair


and shining eyes. Our language was guttural, secret –

all we needed, ululating into the vinegar-sharp air,


proclaiming dominion over sea-anemones, amber,

samphire, driftwood, starfish, belemnites, limpets.


Whelk-shells were garlanded, primitive amulets

worn to ward off September: its uniforms, its shoes.



Shortlisted, Live Canon Poetry Competition, 2016

Published in competition anthology


© Sarah Doyle