A sail in the harbour
In the white heat of noon
The ship of my husband now returning
Soon the messenger will arrive
Dusty and panting
Smelling of tar and spices
And of the sea…
And I must give orders
That his room be made ready , food prepared
All will be as before
I did not mean to pry
It was only that the day was brazen hot
The air dusty burning my throat
And, you know, he had left his keys about
A thing he seldom does
The old storeroom was cool and dark
Like entering a sea grotto on a moonlit night-
What a strange thought to have had
I who cannot abide the sea, the very sound and scent of the sea
Or so he said when he built this house
Above all the rest, in the highest part of town
Where the sun beats down, like a great brass gong
Clashing, clashing
'You will be better here,' he said, and it is true
I had such dreams when we lived there
Close to the sound and scent of the sea
Such strange dreams I could not keep to my bed
Imagine-once they found me walking
Toward the old sea wall, in the middle of the night…
Oh, he is a good man, and kind to me
Everyone here says so
To move so far from his goods and ships
So patient with his mad wife oh I have heard the talk
When they think I am not by
How he found me shipwrecked
Alone on the pebbled beach on a night of storms
My memory quite gone, poor thing
And married me, made me his wife
Put on me the little ankle chains with tiny bells
All the married women wear them here
They are gold, and chime prettily as I walk
Such a kind man, and so very rich
His warehouses filled with goods, his many ships
And in his house the curiosities he has gathered
The stuffed dog fish, the narwhales horn
Bits of  sea creatures, dried and dead
For  he must go voyaging, over the endless waves
The sounds of the sea birds, crying ,crying
As though they had lost something endlessly crying
I hear them even now, so far above the sea
And the sun so brazen hot
That was why I went there, to the old storeroom
Quite cool and dark it was, and smelling of the sea
And entering
Was like plunging into a quiet pool, moon lit
Except for the sound of the bells of course
And there in a dusty corner, the wooden chest
He used to keep his things in when he went to sea
Locked of course, but then I had the keys
All the keys, you see, that he had left
Perhaps, I told myself
Something is in there that has not been washed
Such a strong sea smell
No need to trouble the servants
I shall see what it is, and tend to it
Wives do that sort of thing do they not?
In the end there was a key
Rusty as though seldom used
And the lid of the chest protested
Groaned to give up its secrets, kept so long
What is this? No sea clothes
Only some sort of cloak made of-ah!
Not a cloak at all but the skin
The soft skin of a sea creature, smelling so of the sea…
I seem to hear the sea birds crying, crying
Or no…not birds, their voices deeper
Calling for one who is lost, lost, I
Know what this is, the images crowd forth
Breaking surf and swimming, swimming, swifter
Than thought, the cool depths of the sea,diving
Down, down and the water rushing past moonlight
On the beach and singing, my people and
Changing to dance there in the moonlight
Alone I and the moon, the silvered light then sleeping and
Oh, gone! It is gone, and I can never go back
For he had taken me, this part of me, the spell broken
Stolen  and I must follow
Wherever it went, even to this, this hot dry place
So far above the sea and all I loved-
Yes here is the messenger, and he says
Something, and I answer something,
And give some orders to the serving girl
It is no matter
The hours will pass and this person
With the golden bells about her feet
This person will converse and smile
And ask after his latest venture
The hours will pass and night will come  
All will sleep, sleep deep as these people do
The golden bells sleep also where I have put them off
Put off their chains and left them lie
And in the dark I shall put on my secret skin
Put on my self, stolen from me
Pass silent by his room and he…breathes on , unknowing
Then down the endless steps, to the old town,
A shadow among the shadows
The sea smell growing and the quiet waves
Breaking upon the old stone quay
And the ships, his ships, impotent sentinels
Raise up their oaken arms in horror
No matter, I pass them by
Raise up my arms and call in the old way
Far out to sea I hear my people answer
Glad welcome in the sound
To leap, and change and meet the rushing wave
Down, down the sea cool in my throat at last
And I am home

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