Friday Poem – Mermaid


This week’s poem is from Simon Mundy’s fourth collection, More for Helen of Troy, first published in 2012.

More for Helen of Troy, Simon Mundy’s new collection of poems from Seren, is suffused with the atmosphere of the landscapes that inspire him, the lush countryside of Powys, and a number of islands all over the world:Genada, Jamaica, Shetland, Italy. It is also deeply involved with many questions of desire: for the ideal of a beautiful woman, as ‘Mermaid’; for the hope of a good state, as in ‘The New Senedd, Cardiff’ for the vision of a pristine country and seaside, as in ‘Radnor Songs’ and ‘Aspects of Sea’. The tension between all these ideals, between lofty aims and inevitable disappointments, come together in the main title sequence, where an entire society must scheme and suffer for the allure of Helen. Helen is also emblematic: both a legendary figure and a imago for women from all times: pursued, desired, lonely, restless, she haunts the imagination of the poet. Sometimes keenly satirical, as in ‘Society Haiku’, and often poignantly lyrical as in ‘Translated Daughter’, these poems are both pointed and enjoyable. 

Mermaid

This rock, this divan of stone
Is too jagged for your tail, tearing
Young scales, the salt of sea and tears
Searing raw skin as you preen and comb,
Holding the pose for shipsful of men
Who pass in the morning.
What else can you do?
Hide in the cold northern waters that sparkle
On the surface but hold poisons that pock
Your fins with dirty sores.
Or you could hitch on board those ships,
Shed the tail, rejoice in legs and bush,
Bask on the warm sands of love
Before the mortal tides creep in
Across the disappointing strand.
No. Keep amphibious. Immortal
Beauty is worth a little weeping.

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