Stone Telling

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A Mermaid in the Mermaid

by Pear Nuallak

‘How rude this storm is on the rough coast of Rye! Let us move,’
said the Sea, ‘to Cornwall, it's rather less glum…’
And so they set off, the Sea and their best mermaid friend
who dreamed of a stargazy pie, every crumb.

But the heart is the heart, and both quite missed the old place
So they sighed, the mermaid then chewing her lip
‘We can pay up in pearls,’ she said, ‘you can make yourself neat;
I can ride on your back, the purse at my hip.’

‘A mermaid in the Mermaid Inn!’ say the burghers of Rye,
‘what good luck, a blessing, a boon for the town!
oh, we'll give her fine cakes, a quiche, then some brown onion soup
and fit her with bonnets and capes and a gown.’

In a tub by the fire, she rests her great gleaming tail
The maid's hands still carding her salt-tangled braid
‘Sweet spice for our bath,’ said the Sea, ‘have you Macchanu's blend?’
‘Carbolic, or sailor's hard soap,’ said the maid.

With a beat of her tail she said, ‘I want stargazy pie.’
Said the maid, ‘Not scallops or fish from the bay?’
‘Why, I hoped to have both,’ she winked, teeth like pearls in a string,
‘if you would, I'd gladly have more if I may…’

At the well-risen noonday, Rye was most startled to find
All three of them gone, the pearls turned into sand
Now, do please leave them alone, those two comely dark sea maids
Or they'll say, ‘No, we don't care much for the land!’

Pear Nuallak is a flat-nosed and fancy androgyne. A British-born Thai, they knit while having opinions, usually about food, sometimes about fiction.

Photography: adapted from an unpublished photograph by Nathaniel Justin Smith. Used with permission.