Rosie Garland: Out of Water

That first time, he grinned. I slid my fingers 
into his mouth, unrolled the snail of his tongue, 
sucked it against my own. 
  
Now he mumbles excuses. 
When I reach for him he pulls back, 
gags at the salt slurp of my lips. 
  
He picks off my scales; calls them scabs. 
My bones ripple beneath unrelenting flint 
as he fingers my ribs, spine, pelvis. He chisels into me. 
  
If he loves me, and he insists he loves me, 
I do not understand why he can’t give me something 
for the pain, the grinding crunch of cleft legs. 
  
I bathe three times a day. It’s not enough to soothe 
the scissoring chafe of my thighs. I press 
their ugly fork together, but they will not melt into tail. 
  
I am trapped in this sandpaper scratch of breathing; 
inhale knives. Skin cracks, ears bleed 
with the friction of his words. My song, 
  
which was enough to siren sailors, warriors and saints 
is shrivelled to the coarse racketing of seabirds. 
I am done with the agony of dry land. Take back this cruel air,   

these feet. They can barely stagger me 
from bed to window. I clutch the sill, ache to jump 
and swim down the sky, dive into watery flesh, 

the drumming thump of ocean. Tuck me under 
its silty blanket. Let me gaze through the window of water, 
through the glittering flicker of fish, until the bubbles stop.


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