The Mermaid and the Phoenix-Woman

I wrote this poem for my dear friend Elisa’s birthday last year. I’ve kept it hers alone for over a year, because it belongs to her completely, but at the same time I guess it’s also kind of mine, so I’m posting it here too.

The Mermaid and the Phoenix-Woman

In endless time before the ordinary
The fiery phoenix-woman fell in love
With her: the loveliest of all the mermaids
Her green-blue hair entwining down her back
As she would dive and rocket through the waves

The phoenix-woman knew their love was doomed
For her beloved mermaid could not leave
The warm enfolding waters of the sea
Or else she soon would wither and decline
And gasp her last amid the dust and dry

And similarly, phoenix-woman’s life
Could not include the worlds beneath the sea
For if she ever dove below the waves
Her flaming feathers would be quenched for good
And she would never fly nor burn again

So many, many years passed by, with tears
And longing greater than can be described
Till phoenix-woman could no more endure
The anguish of a love so long denied
And she made up her mind to change the game

She rose at dusk on middle-summer’s eve
Her mermaid love looked up beneath the blue
Eyes growing wide as phoenix-woman’s flame
Flared brighter than the sun, and burned her up
To ashes, which fell softly to the sea

But then the ashes sank into the waves
And coalesced into a brand new form
With feathers still, of brilliant orange and red
But without flame, or faculty for flight
The two embraced, and shed new kinds of tears

Their child, when she was born, was full of joy
In years to come she’d be known far and wide
Propelled beneath the sea by her orange tail
Or soaring through the air on wings of fire
Her laughter ringing through the world entire

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