by Amal El-Mohtar, Caitlyn Paxson, and Jessica P. Wick
Sailor, sweet sailor, why not come to me?
Here, to the loveliest; to the wildest; to the sea.
I will give you wanting. Don’t you want?
You want to. I will draw you down, by salt and tide,
froth and foam, I will draw you deep
and you will want
to drink. With me, my lovely meat,
you will burn: your eyes, your lungs,
your heart—and I will rock
your bones to sleep,
and you will dream. Oh, warm! My sailor! With me,
your eyes will be salt-seamed, salt-stitched
by my own hand, and replaced
with pearls; your ghost will see
the wide, wide world. You will want,
my love, I promise you,
and you will yearn. I want you, too.
Hear me, sailor, sweet
Who rides on wine dark seas,
Skims along the lapis waves
And trawls the brackish deeps:
Do you not long to quench your thirst?
Do you not long for quaff that keeps?
There’s crust upon your chin –
Telltale of desperation,
Of lips ill-kissed by salt,
You are soaking in a lusty brine.
You are pickling from the outside in.
But not in my waters, no
I would never treat you so.
But rather wash you clean
In my pebble-bottomed bath.
Forget the fickle ocean’s song,
Forget her beauty and her wrath.
Yes, come closer, sailor.
Let my undertow embrace you,
Push inside your mortal core,
Swell your every shriveled pore.
You will take it drop by drop.
You will gulp and ask for more.
My sweet waters are enough
To fill the holes inside you
With more alluring stuff,
Make a bottle of your brittle skin.
You need only drink.
You need only drink me in.
You will never thirst again.
Listen, sailor! It’s true
these wild seas are no quaint glass casket,
ready to quench you; no tame mirror,
for toothless old monsters and the lofty skies,
which never cared for you.
In my cold arms—and they are cold,
my darling—the land will never lock
you, stop you. Sailor, here you will always thirst,
never forced to run one course and desperate
to escape each time it storms. Repetition is a road
almost always running south; I give you more.
I have teeth. And beds; I promise to rise
and I will give you blood and brine,
crash and curl.
I will give you ships,
history, history from before history,
I will pull for you fire from the earth’s core,
I will show you luminous creatures, glittering treasures,
and other secrets in my quiet, constant dark.
I will change you into a mystery, give you
immortality, and you will claim
more wonder than waits among the stars.
Salt is for scouring, a lake’s a still depth,
I beseech you, sweet sailor: ask more of your death!
The ocean’s oblivion; the deep lake, despair,
But a river’s a rather more supple affair—
Ignore the sea’s swishing, the lake’s whine—instead,
Come find better rest in my soft riverbed.
This sleek rippled surface of silk for our sheets,
These moss-slippered stones for a pillow so neat,
I’ll call up cool currents to wind through your hair,
Bend grasses to bind you and rid you of air,
And leash you to wander the breadth of my lair!
The ocean’s too large, that pond far too small,
But my rhythms and rockings have something for all.
There’s a lilt to my silt as I come and I go,
The best of both worlds lies in my undertow!
I’ve tides like the ocean, am sweet as a lake,
Oh won’t you give up your land-legs for my sake?
There isn’t a thirst my broad waters can’t slake;
Come to me, my sailor. Dream deep in my wake.
Come to me. I wait for you.
I tell you the truest thing: There is no romance
in the world that’s doesn’t begin with the glamour
of the seas, unless perhaps the Moon–
and once we have ghosts enough, I’ll take that too.
Let me take you. I want you.
Come to me, sailor, come
to me, sailor. Come.
© Copyright Amal El-Mohtar, Caitlyn Paxson, and Jessica P. Wick
Amal El-Mohtar is an award-winning writer of fiction, poetry, and criticism. Her stories and poems have appeared in magazines including Tor.com, Fireside Fiction, Lightspeed, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, Apex, Stone Telling, andMythic Delirium; anthologies including The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories(2017), The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales(2016), Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories(2014), and The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (2011); and in her own collection, The Honey Month(2010). Her articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, NPR Books and on Tor.com. She became the Otherworldly columnist at the New York Times in February 2018, and is represented by DongWon Song of HMLA.
Caitlyn Paxson is a writer, storyteller, and performer. She lives on Prince Edward Island, where she manages a haunted historic house museum. She reviews books for NPR Books and Quill & Quire, and her writing has appeared in a variety of places, including Tor.com, Shimmer, Stone Telling, Mythic Delirium, and The Deadlands. She was an editor at the poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit, and was nominated for the Rhysling Award for one of her own poems. You can find her at caitlynpaxson.com or @caitlynpaxson on Instagram.
Jessica P. Wick (https://jessicapwick.com/) is a writer and freelance editor living in Rhode Island. She enjoys rambling through graveyards and writing by candlelight. Her poetry may be found scattered across the internet. Her novella An Unkindness is in A Sinister Quartet from Mythic Delirium. She has never lived far from the sea and highly recommends Mollie Hunter’s The Mermaid Summer.
Read the Rest of the December Issue
- The Rime of the Midwinter Mermaids by Kelly Jarvis
- What to Do After Receiving a Starlit Pearl by Mari Ness
- Mermaid’s Hook by Liz Argall
- Which Inland Waterways Merfolk Are You? by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas and S.R. Mandel
- Mermaid Care by Jonathan Crowe
- Lotus Eater by Cameron Harvey
- The Catfish Sisters by Lisa M. Bradley
- The North American Wombats Guide to Random Sea Creatures: The Sea Hare by Ursula Vernon
- Merbraids by Amal El-Mohtar, Caitlyn Paxson and Jessica P. Wick
- Mermaid by Marla Faith
- Magdelena the Mermaid by Ana Merino, translation by Toshiya Kamei
- The Space Mermaid’s Garden by Beth Goder
- How to Spot A Mermaid by Emily Fox
- Deepwater Dance by Elaine Ho
- Into the Light by Elaine Ho