1:8: “The Merrow”, by Kyri Freeman

1:8: “The Merrow”, by Kyri Freeman

“On deck there! Sail to windward — sail — shite!”

Foot slipping on slick yard, flailing, arms athrash into the long heartstopping moment of the fall. Instant of your messmate’s wide blue eyes startled — you were skylarking, showing off for him. God fool

and air.

Faces turn from tasks on deck. “Man —”

Hard water hits like solid shot. Into your eyes and gasping lungs. You fall like lead — dazed — thinking air but the sky flies away, the frigate’s hull like motherhome receding gone.

You sink: foam-blue-black, a swirl of sand, eyeless fish squirm, squid blast away in inky writhing bulk.

You sink long-seeming as your life ’till now.

She. Weed round her bones and flat eel eyes. “Come.” You would flee but you’re hard-bludgeoned by the fall, the water’s crash, and chained by current now. She: throned on wreckage and the ribs of whales. Clawed feet rake bottom muck.

“Come.” Sharp teeth. Stripped hands on you to plunder warmth. Rot is her kiss. Your seed streams out, surrender’s flag.

Her breasts are urchins and she has no heart. “Yes,” you cannot say, salt water dumb.

And then uprushing, plucked by air, light flown near and nearer until cast out gasping on the desert swell. And boats are launched to bring you tame aboard.

Your messmate clasps you, thanking God you can no longer own. O’ changeling you: your darkshaped eyes can see his skin to bone. How white the frigate decks, once holystoned. How bright the carronades, once powderstains are gone.

How much a lie this sun-side cell of life. Pinioned, you starve for rotting honesty. Your truth’s below, down in the merrow’s hold.

Late night you skirmish out of sick bay. Barred from railing’s edge you seek the hold and hammer hard on bottom rotting wood. Holes to let in the sea. Holes to let you through to the one who stole your soul.

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