Poetry - Issue 08 | February 2010

Three Poems by Michael Bazzett


The Merman

Everybody’s enthralled by the mermaids, silken breasts like plums
dropped from the heaving branch and lost forever to the green sea.
Believe me I understand the attraction, having swum with several.

But what about the intrigue of man merged with fish, hard
and limber as a pike, with speed to taunt barracudas and marlins,
not to mention mermaids?  We warrant no tales at all.  It seems

you delve into the sea for softer things; the nets go out, the nets
come in, pulling piles onto the wet deck where half the mass
is deemed chaff and thrown back, stunned, broken-finned,

into the shark pack.  Perhaps you crave the languid, the rank.
You eat canned tuna while I swim among them and smack
your lips over lobster no better than a rat.  You’ll never know

the muscular tremble of a fish between the jaws, its round eye
clouding even as you shred flesh from the trellis of bone. 
I’ve swum in the thrumming wakes of your ships.  I’ve heard

fatuous toadies marvel at the breadth beneath their chins –
as if a bull’s strength were derived from its hide, incognizant
of a depth that could burst veins eardrums lungs should they

come even halfway inside.  Clouds of shad trail these grinding boats
to feed on what you spatter from the rail.  You know this,
but live in the sparseness of light and mist, learning to forget

what will happen happens has already happened down in the watery dark. 
So come to the tattered froth of the shore, you who had gills once.
Watch the sea file its nails on the sand.  Discuss the terrible force

of this pedestrian act.  Murmur to your children of manatees adorned in kelp
and the sailors who mistook their bulk for the lithe lines of mermaids. 
Keep your legends.  They suit you who live only on the surface of things,
who’ve never felt a flutter in the spine when shark fins cut the water.

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About the author

Michael Bazzett’s favorite mode of transportation is reading a book in his hammock. He has new work forthcoming in Cream City Review, Literary Imagination, Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, and Prairie Schooner. Read his chapbook, The Imaginary City.

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