Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ten Years Ago: In Poems

Here are three poems I wrote ten years ago. Anyone who has read the Undine trilogy will recognise that these poems were precursors to the novel (read - I totally plagarised myself). The three fishes from the first poem appear in Undine. The second poem is thematically very similar (especially in tying The Tempest and Little Mermaid together), plus I write quite a bit about The Little Mermaid in Drift (it's one of my favourite parts of the trilogy). And I describe the magic as a sea of lost things in Breathe - I think I use that whole phrase - civilisations submerged, moth wings. I haven't looked at these for years, and it's only now that I'm realising how much I plundered them as I was writing.

Belladonna Night
It was a night like any other night, stuck between days like an
afterthought, something to do between suns. It arrived sometime
after dusk and left before morning. There was a particularly brilliant
moon and an aeroplane falling out of the sky. Ships navigated their
way by the stars, invisible rocks tore open their huge jagged hulls.
Weather kept itself mysterious, unobservable. It was a night that
smelt coastal, a gypsy night, she came wearing an old shawl,
oceans and skies gathered about her.
Deadly she wound herself in black berries and white flowers. She found
me sleeping, and thumped me hard on the chest. She left three silvery
fishes on my doorstep. I woke up gasping for air.
At dawn she blushed and left.

The Little Mermaid

I lived with fish and drowning girls in blue,
Submerged and bound in seaweed coloured lace,
And salt and brine formed crystals on my face.
I surfaced on a winter afternoon

And found I had to learn to look at you.
Like Miranda I left this island place,
O brave new world, and somersaulted space;
I arched my back and split my tail in two.

I forced myself to walk on tortured legs
And sexed my sexless body with a knife,
Untangled algae then unwound, unthread

My self from sea and sisters into life.
I lost my voice to make myself your wife,
It was that vision: You thrown back, half dead.

Sea of Lost Things

So I write, I have lost you.
Again and again,
I have lost you.

In that sea of lost things
Where you turned yourself
Upside down and drowned,
Like a photograph
Or a small moon.

There are other things down there,
Small bright coins
And gods and children.
All lost things. Whole buildings
Submerged, civilisations,
Moth wings, the groaning
Wooden spaces of torn ships.

She stands in a lonely kitchen
Her heart opens and closes.
She contemplates three silver fish.
On the windowsill is a photograph,
Behind it, a small moon.
It is not enough, she writes.
I have lost you.


  1. I have to admit I'm not a big poetry buff, but I love these. Beautiful, beautiful language and imagery - and I adore (yes, adore) both The Little Mermaid and The Tempest (says Ariel - which I got from The Tempest and was horrified to realise was also Disney's Little Mermaid).

    I think The Little Mermaid is one of the most beautiful fairy tales ever. I'm not sure why - would need to think on it. It's so tragic, though, and perhaps the ultimate unrequited love story, and also a story that relies so much on chance. And the huge sacrifices for love - her voice, her sisters' hair (was it?), ultimately her life. Give me the Hans Christian Anderson original any day.

  2. Over Disney I mean, not over your poems (of course!)

  3. these are lovely indeed! i really want to read your undine books some day.

    funny, they sort of remind me of a poem i wrote about ten years ago. it's on my blog but i can't remember how to put links in comments. if you click on my tag 'poetry' (newly alphabetised - they're all at the bottom of my left hand column), and scroll down towards the bottom of the page you'll find it. it's called 'sea song'. only if you feel like it...

  4. Ariel - I was sure you were tempest Ariel and not Disney Ariel. Funnily enough, I also have a thing for Lewis Carroll, so love your blog name. Trout, Mim and Jasper in Drift talk about the sisters sacrifice...there's something deeply poignant about them giving up their hair. Pointless sacrifices are very tragic, because it makes the sacrifice all the more...sacrificial. Or something.

    Oh Meli, Sea Song is beautiful, I love it. Yes, we have quite a similar voice and certainly the same catalogue of imagery. I'd love for you to read the Undine books and tell me what you think.

  5. I love these poems. I am quite envious. They have such movement; they flow and pull you along with the tide. Lovely.

  6. Anonymous9:38 AM

    I love your poetry, the language and the imagery... but I love your prose too. Any idea of when some of your other books are coming out in the US? We have Undine and Breathe... but I am dying to know how the trilogy ends...

  7. Anonymous10:48 AM

    Ahhh... the agony... how can the publishers do this to me? Do you know of a bookstore that would be willing to ship it and some of your other books? Because the one's I've looked at don't offer shipping to the US.

    And thanks about Michelle... She was gone last year and we are still good friends, so I hope this year goes as good. But still... it hurts.