To an Old Lady Seen Sitting Gazing at the Sea

Would you go for a swim?
It’s too cold.
If it were hot, would you go for a swim?
I’m too old.
You are not.

If it were hot, really hot, would you
strip off your clothes and plunge in?
I would, I would but
I’m old
and it’s cold.
But you would?
Oh, I would.
I would …

And once you were in,
how long would you stay?
Would you stay in all day?
All day?
I’m too old.
If it were hot, really hot, 
you could stay in all day, and all night.
All night, yes.
I would stay in and play
by the light of the moon
all day and all night.

Mermaid Out Of Water 4

Throw the poor thing back in!
She;s real! Look!
Look at that tail!

Fuck, yes!
Just think what we can get for her,
what she must be worth

But she’s dying! Look at her eyes.
And already the gleam
is fading from her scales!

Those eyes are not the eyes of a human!
They are the eyes – and the scales! –
of a fucking fish!

Throw her back in.
If she dies
you’ll get nothing.

Fish die. I’ll sell her frozen.
Find the right scientists

and auction her like the fucking fish she is.

Who do I identify with? Not the one who wants to keep her, sell her, that’s for sure. The other one, who wants to throw her back in, quick, before she dies? Yes, of course. But I identify more closely with the mermaid herself, helpless in the hands of a bully and his spineless sidekick.



Sitting on a rock,
water swirling round
her hips, head tilted, lost
in thought – or dreams –
she didn’t notice me
under the cliff,
waiting for the tide to turn.

Foolishly I blinked,
and when I looked again,
she’d gone.

Animan Inc (Revisited)

[You can find the original poem Animan Inc on this site HERE]

No one ever volunteered to be
a mangrel – who’d want to be a dog,
however human? Or be a mankey?
Anyway, mankeys are small,
they’re pets, they start as children.
And feeders and bleeders are convicts,
it’s a sentence: life as a feeder, or bleeder –
or as a manimal if you seem suitable
for mindless manual work.

But when they ask for mermen, mermaids,
queues form down the street, and in the park
crowds ebb and flow and surge
like a shoal of fish dreaming of the cool, green,
silent seas, of nakedness, of weightlessness,
of peace and quiet and beauty, fish out of water
dreaming of the world for which they were created.


PABLO NERUDA: The Fable Of The Water Nymph And The Drunks

(Translated from the Spanish of Pablo Neruda)

All these gentlemen were here inside
when she came through the door completely naked
they’d been drinking and began to spit at her
she didn’t understand she was fresh out of the river
a water nymph who had lost her way
the insults flowed over her gleaming flesh
the filth covered her golden breasts
she didn’t know about crying so she didn’t cry
she didn’t know about dressing so she didn’t dress
they tattooed her with burnt corks and cigarettes
then fell down laughing on the tavern floor
she didn’t say anything because she didn’t know how
her eyes were the colour of far-away love
her arms formed of twinned white topaz
her lips pursed with the sheen of coral
and abruptly she went back out through that door
no sooner was she in the river than she was cleansed
she shone like white stone in the rain
and without looking back swam once more
swam towards never again swam towards death.

Seumas Considers The Sea – in the manner of Ian Hamilton Finlay

Peedie Seumas
Made a boat
Full of air
So it would float

How beautiful, how beautiful the hollow
Boat and Seumas in the water pushing
Seumas behind in the water wishing
The boat didn’t have to be hollow

The sea didn’t have to be wet
As he steered to the south, the mouth
Forgetting what everyone said
But remarking that

The peedie sea is not so deep
It lies upon a water bed
Between the isles –
I miss the lasses, though

Peedie Seumas
Don’t look down –
See a mermaid
And you drown

SHEPHERDS BY J Drew Brumbaugh (Book Review)

This is a story about what are, in effect, mermaids and mermen. However, it is not fantasy – at least not fairy-tale fantasy, though perhaps you might class it as that SF sub-genre Speculative Fantasy, rather than as hardcore Science Fiction.

In one sense, it is a little of both – as I suppose are all the best SF novels.

In a not-too-distant future, when over-fishing has depleted the seas of wild fish, shoals of millions of farmed tuna are minded out in the open ocean by genetically engineered humans and tame dolphins. Like shepherds and their sheepdogs, the humans directing operations and the dolphins keeping the shoal all together and moving in the right direction. As a situation this clearly has its good side, but one of its downsides is that traditional fishermen, who had been barely making a living before, are now unable to compete. Some turn to piracy, or to drug-trafficking, working for the big cartels. Others, like our hero Toivo, struggle on as fishermen.

Toivo, it should be pointed out, is not a shepherd. What enables him to keep going is his ability to communicate directly with dolphins. He literally “speaks dolphinese”, which he learnt as a small child spending all his time with the dolphins that his father, a marine zoologist, was studying. Now his dolphin friends help him with his fishing.

So there he is on his fishing-boat somewhere out in the south Pacific. And not far away on a submersible raft, their home, live three shepherds. Two of them are a couple; the third, Olga, whom some would describe as beautiful, others as a freak, feels left out, lonely – and that she has nothing whatsoever to look forward to. She cannot live on land, and now her kind, mutants, the product of genetic engineering, have been declared illegal by the UN.

On a third vessel, a large ship, a fishing-boat skipper turned drug-runner who hates “swimmer freaks” sails towards them. Enough. I don’t wish to spoil it.

I have loved the whole notion of mermaids and sea-people all my life, so naturally I thrilled to this story. But there is something else that makes this book stand out from the rest. The dolphins are not only intelligent but philosophically and spiritually more advanced than most of us humans – partly, of course, because they are completely unmaterialistic. There is even the suggestion that their ancestors, millions of years ago, were land-dwellers and the first civilisation on Earth, but then took the conscious decision to return to the sea. Toivo’s close friend, the dolphin Poika, believes that humans have at last begun to tire of their materialistic and self-destructive civilisation and are now ready to return to the sea. That people like Olga represent the future of our species.