Lake Wife

Under the lake I care, I don’t care,
as the waves roll over me, each one
draws back over my head green water
my native breath that tastes strange,
fresh seaweed and old memories.
He loves me, he loves me not,
the tides of the blood, the heart,
the lake’s tides that pound in my head,
caring, not caring, sliding in the shallows
down in the shingle towards the deep water
I left long ago to go catch a human.

There, on the shore’s edge,
there, in the unfading afterglow, the shortest night,
I danced on knives, uncaring.
Under the water now, my toes are growing webs,
my legs cleaving together,
my feet look like flukes.
When I swim I will be fast, and graceful,
sleek, swift-leaping through the waves,
in this dark time of winter.
I always hated walking.

He thought he caught me,
hauled me up dripping
we snagged on each other,
he taught me to care, to trust.
I thought he saw me,
when I saw myself in his green-water eyes,
and told him my name.
I pretended it didn’t matter
when he told me it didn’t.
When he asked me to dance, I danced,
in time comes caring,
the memory that pain hurts.
I thought I could stay on land,
after all, he loved me,
how could he possibly three times strike me?

He will say: ‘These lake-women
are all the same
they never keep their promises,’
pressing tight those lips I have kissed,
that said ‘Mine, mine, mine,’
that said ‘Dance. You only pretend it hurts you.’
He will miss me, on winter nights,
until he finds some lands-woman
who can love without pride on either side
who is looking to take on another child
for the sake of warm arms, warm words, cold sorrow.

Six waves carry away my tears
to make into pearls.
They drape my floating breasts
with green and red weed,
little fishes nudge at my fingers,
swim through my hair.
I care, I don’t care, what do I care for?
The seventh wave is stronger, the undertow tugs me.

Go back to the lake…
I can only go forward
here in the cool tide,
comforting, lapping, running up and back
in a rush of white on green as it spumes
and sprays and breaks itself on
the hills and valleys of my body.
My heart is broken, and mended, and broken,
set straight, washed over,
tugged to a strange peace, caring, uncaring,
no walls will hold when waves erode them.

I am changed in land’s keeping.
I am not the girl who came out of the water,
no, never again, not that fool.
I am older, stronger, my heart beats firmly,
red blood drives the tides beneath my skin
I chose to live on, to be free, and lonely,
if so I must be, worlds are choice before me
and I breathe, I live, I move on forward
I glow blue fire, I am phosphorescent,
and I dive deep down, streaming weed behind me,
laughing and free, in the lake’s deep promise,
I am all of myself, and my tail is flicking,
my smile is wide and my arms are open,
I gulp down fish for my sudden hunger,
I am wild, I go on, and I care;
I love me.

November 1996

Nigel Brown [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons