Many Steeples Would Have to Be Stacked One on Top of Another to Reach From the Bottom to the Surface of the Sea

Annie Woodford

“The Little Mermaid Speaks” 

The clean mouths
of newborns,
the clean bones
of memory—
a tossed prophesy
of swallow
& purge.
My father’s swollen feet.
My swollen feet.
I can still feel
my father’s hands
pulling my hair
into a rough ponytail.
My skin held
the smell of fish,
even in the prince’s
I was voiceless,
each step a stab.
Women do.
The nether
regions reached
by salt.
Yaupon tea
as a seasonal emetic.
A nutria
with a snake
in its mouth
trots through me.
A doe crashes
across this estuary
in the rain.
Whole cloth.
Sail cloth.
The briny expanse. 
O swim in it.
Certain waters
I love, foam
of souls & wave-
turn. Cockleshells
& silverbells.
An acre of land
between the salt
water & the sea
sand. I was
a little girl,
peering through
a porthole,
silver minnows
from a throw net.