Sea Legend

They drew her up among the tons of codfish,
a pair of glistening pearl studs at each ear.
Two clam shell halves concealed her nipples,
reminded them of dancing girls rigged out
in tassels–an obscene mockery or a tease.
From the waist up she was every woman:
your mother from a photo on a Caribbean beach;
a housewife transformed by the siren light
of evening; the fifth grade teacher who leaned
across your desk to demonstrate
a silk brassiere, her cleavage with arithmetic.

Below the waist she was scales and tail fin–
no fit place to put a reassuring palm.
They kept reaching out as if to pat a leg that wasn’t there.
They were divided over what to do with her:
Some said she should be laid to rest
in a proper grave; others, she belonged at sea.
So they settled on the latter, tipped the body
into the water and watched it fade from view.
No one noticed that pronged tail waving
while she sank, as if it knew something they did not.

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