Sea Glass Badge of Courage (on killing Grendel’s Mother with the sand in my shoe)

To all the mermaids

at the ocean floor

in corral cities

still living with their parents, haunted

by stories of Ariel and her



transformation, only to be


by the object of her fancy:

Your lack of red-haired rebellion has


been cowardice.

I never left home either.  

Until now, I suppose.  

My parents don’t even know

I’m gone.  

They think I’m at school because

I’ve never given them cause to think otherwise.  I

snuck out the bathroom window at lunch to drive here because

my english teacher told us that heroes face their fears.  

And I’m afraid of the ocean.  

All those clickbait articles about

bloated white ghouls

swimming with crooked teeth

out of the endless blue, inevitably popping up

at the bottom of online encyclopedia entries

make me hold my breath, momentarily

sucking me in

to their horrible mirky domain.   

But anyhow,

summertime used to scare me as a child—

so hot

and dry

and all those

shivering mirages on the blacktop.  

And I only learned to love June when

someone finally asked to be my friend

and held my hand

when we crossed the fathomless pavement.  

So I thought that

maybe you’re afraid of the dry land

as much as I’m scared of the ocean floor.  

And I thought

maybe I’d write you a letter

and see if you wanted to

hold a bit of each other’s world in a bottle and

wave at each other

through coca-cola binoculars.

I mean, you don’t actually have to

leave home, to

make a deal with the devil, to

get those sexy legs, to

trip into dragon-scarred arms.  

I mean, I’m going to

slip back into those nondescript halls, going to

paint myself to match their grout-and-green tile

just as soon as I send this bottle to you.   

I mean, we don’t need expatriate black magic to

live worthwhile Stories.

Point is,

I don’t think anyone has

seen you

before.  And

I haven’t noticed you either

because I was so afraid of

behemoths swimming in

gloomy blueness

that I didn’t stop to think that

you might exist too

with anemone streetlamps

and blowfish for pets.


I’m not ready

to dive underwater yet,

and I wouldn’t expect you to

jump from the glittering waves to the

cracked, sun-blackened surface.  

So I thought instead we might send letters.

I thought

maybe I could tell you about

how the air smells

when the leaves start to tarnish and

why for some reason

the death of a year makes me feel so


Maybe in exchange you can tell me

what the water feels like

running through your hair during the

ebbing tide.  

Or something like that.


if you don’t write back,

I understand,

but if you do,

I’ll be back here in


to look for the red return bottle.

This poem is about: 
Our world


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