The Sea is Silent but the Lights are On

We find it lying on the beach:

A lump of scales and fingernails, 

An inky trail up from the water

Slithering through the sand


Its eyes open and filmy

As if surprised by the sudden darkness,

Eyelashes heavy with tiny black pearls,

Its hair slicked shiny and black over the white sand,

Vertebrae protruding.


I remember sailing with Papa

And Uncle would pop open a can

And say “Did you ever hear, son, about the siren songs?

And how they sound like the river through a sizzling summer,

With tones as rich as dark, heavy plums

That could lure any sailor overboard?”


They would tell me of their fine flax hair

And scales the color of the moon

Rippling over the calmest waters,

And how their satin lips

That could charm Odysseus

Held sharp, sharp teeth:

Knives that tore away skin like birch bark

And crunched bones with sound like Christmas crackers,

And how the sea ran red like the sunset

Whenever they were near  


I used to imagine them waiting

In the quiet Gulf,

Beautiful and dangerous,


And sometimes If I listened hard,

I heard a whisper of a sound

That sent toothbrush tingles up my back

And made me think of crimson waves


We find it lying on the beach,

Rotting sea smell in our noses,

Sun sinking muddily behind the clouds

As the graying ocean foams and froths below,

A black line shimmering slickly on the horizon.


We stand over it briefly, shoe-shuffling

Like friends of friends at a funeral,

Uncomfortable in our blacks.


Some predatory fish,

Uncle pronounces,

You can tell by the rows of teeth.

Father nods along, knowingly,

Kicking at the flies amassing on the kelp-wound tail.


We leave it lying there

On the beach:

Another rank and misshapen creature,

Eyes wide as if searching for ships,

Face sunk in the seepage from tarred lungs,

Bony fingers clawing for air,

Blackness slicked over too sharp teeth.

And we turn towards home,


To where the sea is silent but the lights are on. 

This poem is about: 
Our world
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


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