The ocean spills from my conch shell ears.
I hear only my own sighing, as though
I am still half-submerged—the last of the lily maids,
too destitute for a barge
and bound by whispered words,
the syllables popping like sea foam.
A fisherman has pulled me from the rocks.
He knows I serve the scorned.
Once summoned, it is my nature—
my curse—to ruin any man I encounter.
I should cast him into the sea,
but he is gentle, with eyes
like tarnished armor. He listens
when I say I am sick of the water—
of white dresses and swimmer’s ear—
of scaly skin and rotten blooms—
of faraway fires and the demand
for ghost girls.
“I have seen the fires. You are warm.
You are more than offering and incantation—
more than curse. Come inside. It is cold.
You are free.”
When the moon bobs above
his crumbling cottage,
I will return to the sea—
alone—and break the curse,
my heart popping like sea foam.