-from The Book of Yelps and Growls
Here is the sea serpent, soft wet worm with long whiskers, undulating, undulating.
Here is the moon slipping into the ocean, full and luminous, lighting the interior of the giant squid’s cave.
Darting and racing come the three Rhine maidens, out of the river and into the ocean, shrieking their dolphin laughter like soggy banshees.
They see the sea serpent, King of the Eels, larger than Luxembourg, and they shiver with delight.
The moon is come bobbing along the floor, round and clean as she stirs up mud, and the maidens are full of want. The serpent wants too, the serpent wants to be full. He opens his jaw and the maidens’ eyes are wide and the moon goes in as if he’d planned it, as if he’d wanted, as if wants could be satisfied.
Now the maidens howl with anger, they are young and they are away from home for the first time and he is an old bastard who has swallowed the brightest. But he is huge and not inviolate and they slip through his gills like the slippery girls they are.
Here is the moon just as they have expected, lighting the long corridor of eel-belly, like a pearl in a maggot, like a firefly that has swallowed its tail.
The moon is so pretty, so pretty they sigh, and the serpent’s belly smells so bad, so bad.
A great shudder runs the length of this tube of flesh and the Rhine maidens are shaken, frightened, sickened. They grab hold of the lurching moon just as she flies from the serpent’s body, in a foul jet of bilge water. With stinging eyes and sputters they ride the moon up and up, shattering the ocean’s surface, into the air.
Cold with the shock of the dry night sky the maidens open their eyes to see the world so far below them, the world escaping their youthful ownership, becoming Itself with distance.
The water on their skin makes a fog around the moon, and the fog makes a cloud and the cloud goes away and the maidens’ gills are gasping and grabbing but the night sky is too cold and too sharp, bearing its weight heavily down upon their bodies which are plastered to the top of the moon. So many young things so often die.
Here is a wind, which polishes the moon, she is an artisan, and wipes away the blurring clouds, the fishy Rhine Maidens, the sea serpent stink.
Down the maidens are going, there is nowhere else to go but down, and they would enjoy it immensely, if they were in a mood for enjoying.
Was there a splash? I did not hear it.
No matter. They are back in the ocean, but far far away from the Rhine, they will never find their home again. They are alive and healthy but an Octopus ravaged two of them when they landed, faint and shivering, and the third lost all of her hair from fright.
It is never wise to leave home.