Young Sailor, Sweet Sailor by Alexandra Erin

Young sailor, sweet sailor,
come swim in the sea!
Come play in the water!
Come make love to me!

The sun, it is warm, the water is clear.
You need not fear drowning
when mermaids are near.

So goes our song.
So say your stories.

“A kiss and you breathe water!”
“The touch of her hand gives you gills!”
“Pearls draped over your neck
make you one of them!”
“Not one of them, just saved!”
“Yes, but it’s a shell,
placed over your heart!”

You can’t agree how it happens,
only that it does, and those saved
pulled beneath the waves
to spend their lives
in a mermaid’s embrace.

Always a young tar tells it.
Always a young jack listens.
Always the old ones sigh and make signs.
Always we listen, and laugh.

Dour old men! Sour old salts!
Why do they hate your stories?
Why won’t they hear our song?

Young sailor, sweet sailor,
come swim in the sea!
Come play in the water!
Come make love to me!

The sun, it is warm, the water is clear.
You need not fear drowning
when mermaids are near.

We hear your stories
as we circle your ships,
as we hunt under wharves,
haunt the shores.

Details differ in the telling,
but we hear them all.
We know what lies beneath.

Young sailor, sweet sailor,
come swim in the sea!
Come play in the water!
Come make love to me!

The sun, it is warm, the water is clear.
You need not fear drowning
when mermaids are near.

Is our song sweet?
Isn’t it charming?
Are we not comely?

Are you not lonely?

The sun is warm.
The sea is clear.
Release that rigging.
Climb over the rail.
Give over!
Jump in!

Close your ears to jealous old men,
their ears closed up with hate.
The sea no longer stirs their loins.
Does it not stir yours?

You feel it, I know it.
You hear it. You want it.
You want us.
Jump over!
Give in.

Young sailor, sweet sailor,
come swim in the sea!
Come play in the water!
Come make love to me!

The sun, it is warm, the water is clear.
You need not fear drowning
when mermaids are near.

We all have forms to please the eyes
and eyes that pierce the deep.
We all have breasts, buoyant and full,
and bellies big and empty.

We all have voices raised in song,
but every mermaid has charms her own.
The ways to keep a man from drowning
are as countless as the stories told.

Would you know them?
Would you know us?

You give up.
You give in.
You come.
You swim.

Now you know what it is,
to be pulled beneath the waves.

Now you feel what it means
to spend your life in our embrace.

Now you learn.
Now you know.

You need not fear drowning.

Not when we have

stinging spines
to still your thrashing,
stop your heart

tentacles to bind, entwine,
ensnare, entangle,
strangle, crush

slick skins that sweat swift death,
stony skins rough-hewn with razors

heads wreathed-round
with strands of poison polyps

claws that pinch and sever,
or snap with such sound
to stave in a skull

jaws like eels

teeth like sharks

mouths that beckon

smile

yawn wide

and sing a song
no man long hears.

Young sailor, sweet sailor,
so tender and dear!
You’d have to drown quickly
when mermaids are near!


Alexandra Erin is a speculative poet and author of short fiction and serial fiction. Her second best-known work is the long-running crowdfunded serial Tales of MU. Her best-known work is a caption where Superman is singing the song from Aladdin to Batman, which she wrote beneath somebody’s picture on Tumblr before she reblogged it. Find her on the web at http://www.blueauthorproductions.com.

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