I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (Patricia Rozema, 1987)

A. Van Jordan

I've Heard the Mermaids Singing


Often, I find myself in situations
for which there are no adequate epigraphs.
My days fill with temp work,
part-time, and I’m in another office,
the next day, day after day,
as a Girl Friday…or a Person Friday, now–
though life hasn’t changed
with the title—and I look into
the unfolding world around me:
Women with babies, couples in love,
women on bicycles or swimming,
women of all kinds, but none
who look like me. Through my lens,
I see through them; my gaze
travels to them like a song, but
they don’t sing back. I notice
some, like Gabrielle, for instance,
from whom I cannot take my eyes
back; I fall in love with her,
the way art lovers fall for a Matisse.
You cherish a Matisse, but you don’t
think to kiss or hug one. But, what’s
so wrong with imagining the Matisse
wanting to kiss me back, seeing into me?
Let’s say the Matisse were a woman,
looking so deeply into my core till
my core looked like a tower to climb
on a sunny day, and the wind began blowing
the closer she got to the top, and birds
flew around the top stairs of the tower, but
she grew tired of climbing. The closer she got to the top,
she could see all the colors comprising me, and
she thought, Maybe I can’t make it to the top
of her tower, maybe even a Matisse isn’t good enough
to reach all this beauty. She would say this as
she feels the light on her face…And I’d tell her
Fear not the height, the distance of the fall…
Keep your eyes on the point
of ascent; yes, the clouds swell heavy,
the rain comes hard, the legs grow weary.
Ah, but the gasp for air…Ah, but the view….