MY SELKIE LOVE
I knelt down hi the sea grass
to watch you waltz on sand.
I crept closer and closer,
reached out and stole your seal skin.
As dusk rolled in,
I could hear your distant wail.
Without your sleek gray hide,
your waters were now forbidden you.
I locked your skin in an old cedar chest.
You married me out of hate and fear,
and to be close to your other-self.
It was not this loveliest of human forms
but the key that was my true constant companion.
You bore me two fine sons.
I peeled away their traitorous pelts.
I did my best to turn them against the ocean.
But one day, I left home without my key,
returned to find the chest wide open,
my love, my boys, the skins, all gone.
The cottage shook from my bellow of rage.
So I became the seal hunter of this northern brine.
I speared their fleshy chests, abandoned their carcasses
to float on ice or wash up in pieces
on the jagged coastal rocks.
One may have been your old seal mate.
Two of those desolate corpses
could even have been our children.
But none were you – for every night
when I slumped home, blood-soaked,
after another day of carnage,
I’d hear and feel your mournful cry
as it whipped up a hurricane.
And when sailors drowned
or poor folk toppled from the cliffs,
that desolate whine became full throated laugh,
with claps of tongue to shudder thunder.
The young maiden was kneeling at the stream,
gathering water in buckets.
It was the cusp of sunset.
A man stalked her
from behind thick furze, a stand of oaks.
All is intrinsic.
Some are driven to provide for their village.
Others are pledged to their deep-rooted desires.
For this was the night
of the swoop, the grasp,
the searing red eyes
that muted a scream into a sigh.
And life is linear
but paths do cross.
It can go on relentlessly,
or stop on the crunch of a sharp tooth
on a willing vein.
There’s overlapping plans involved.
A wedding can now never be
But the walls of a castle
will continue to cloak its master.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Sheepshead Review, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Poem and Spoon River Poetry Review.
art by Virginia Lee