Why Mermaids Cry

I like to comb beaches -

it tickles my mind,

the anticipation

of what one may find:

rocks, shells, and marine life,

the tooth of a whale,

some baubles of sea glass

and maybe a tale.

I picked up a secret

about mermaids' tears:

There are misconceptions -

the truth, though, endears

those clear, shiny treasures

still closer to me,

as well as the creatures

who cry in the sea.

So, here is the story

of how I found out -

please note that my source was

a credible trout.

A steelhead, precisely,

quite large and mature

who just recently had

been fooled by a lure.

It was in the morning,

not past six o'clock,

I walked by a bucket

that stood on a rock.

Its owner was fishing

some ten yards away,

back turned towards me, then

I heard a voice say:

"Please stay for a moment

if you have a heart."

Addressed in such manner,

I couldn't depart.

In silence, I waited

for things to unfold

and wondered just what

the bucket did hold.

A few steps towards it

revealed a big fish.

The light of the sunrise

served to embellish

his silvery tail fins,

which did slightly sway,

reflecting the rainbow

that spanned the small bay.

"I beg you," he whispered

"to grant me my life.

In exchange I will do

my best to contrive

to take you with me on

a visit below

to the places where kelp

and red algae grow."

An offer like this one,

you will understand,

could not be refused, so

I stretched out my hand.

The trout in my tote bag,

I ran off around

the protruding cliff face

and kneeled on the ground

to set my new friend free.

Once in the ocean,

he jumped through the waves in

overjoyed motion.

I watched him with gladness

not feeling the need

for further rewards when

he spoke again: "Meet

me here when the day dawns

tomorrow. Will you?"

I nodded, astonished.

"Believe me, I'm true

to what I have promised."

He dived out of sight.

I slowly walked homewards,

and after a night

of little repose, I

returned to the spot -

the fog was just lifting -

unsure about what

would happen to me if

the fish kept his word.

The surf whirled and billowed.

Somewhere screamed a bird.

I stared at the water;

three heads did appear:

a man and two women.

They beckoned. "Come here."

Of course, you will ask now

just where I have been,

but I cannot tell you

the wonders I've seen.

I solemnly vowed that

I'll never reveal

if I swam with orcas

or petted a seal,

rode on a swift porpoise

through forests of tall

and swaying seaweed, which

cannot but enthrall.

Or if I met people

whose shimmering tails

had elegant flukes and

small sequin-like scales,

whose laughter could equal

the humpbacks' sweet song

and if those companions

did take me along

to magical places

I cannot describe,

lit up by fluorescence

and having the vibe

of summer night parties

below velvet skies

that host glowing stars and

flitting fireflies.

"And what," you will query,

"became of the trout?"

I'm sorry to say that

you'll never find out

if he was the sea queen's

third cousin in-law,

the handsomest fellow

that ever I saw,

who took me back after

three full days of bliss

(it's none of your business

if we had a kiss).

There was one more thing, though;

I just had to try

and ask him: "Your women,

do they ever cry?"

He whispered the answer,

his smile broad but coy:

"When mermaids shed tears, it's

always for pure joy."

Copyright: Silke Stein, September 2021



Frozen Charlotte of the Shore


I found her on a winter's day -

she was stuck in the sand,

her tiny face imploring me,

"Oh, please, lend me a hand.

Come, pick me up and rescue me -

the wind is freezing cold.

I may look like a little girl,

yet I am really old.

This place is beautiful but harsh.

I dread the frothing sea.

I fear the rocks and those white birds

who always pick at me.

I am afraid I might get shipped,

or worse, could even break.

The silt does chafe my China skin.

Help me, for Heaven's sake."

I wrapped her in a handkerchief,

and carried her away,

and put her on the windowsill

where all my sea glass lay.

She seemed to like her newfound home,

and I made her a dress

of pretty printed cotton to

cover her nakedness.

Then, I looked up her origin,

for I was not aware

that figurines like her get found

on beaches everywhere.

These dolls were (made in Germany

from porcelain or bisque)

imported in large quantities -

the toy business was brisk.

Over one hundred years ago,

they sold for a mere cent.

Then, people called them penny doll -

by popular consent,

they later became known and loved

as 'Frozen Charlotte', though,

after a famous old ballad

that recounted the woe

befalling a fair, foolish girl

who set out with her beau

in a sleigh to a New Year's ball,

driving through frost and snow.

She was not adequately clothed -

yes, vanity and pride -

and overcome by the great cold,

she consequently died.

Yet, this sad, cautionary tale

did not impact the joy

the Charlottes gave to children: They

were wild about the toy.

Mine does preside over the gifts

the ocean gave to me,

beautiful shells and tumbled shards

of glass and pottery

I did collect on the same beach

where our paths did meet

when she had been in such distress -

now, she is safe and neat,

and leans against a jar that holds

marbles and stopper stems,

some corals and a wishing stone,

and other coastal gems.

She gazes through the windowpane

right into my backyard

where robins play, and squirrels sing -

I know within my heart

that sometimes on a summer night,

fragrant, cloudless, and still,

when nobody does look at her,

my little Lottie will

mysteriously come to life,

tickled by a moonbeam,

stretch out her limbs and start to dance,

and her wee cheeks will gleam.

There'll be a smile upon her lips,

a sparkle in her eye - 

she cannot hide her pleasure, though,

she might not even try.

In my imagination, I

can see her skip and twirl,

not frozen any longer, but

a lovely, lively girl.

Copyright: Silke Stein, March 2023