Down by the frothy-fingered reach
of the greedy tides on the beach
lingering, lounging on the sand—
slimy, salty, seeking with hand
for what the sea has yet to take
with each moon-glossed, waking wave’s break…
Down, down, down where the waves all crash,
and beneath stars that glint and flash,
a shell breaches the sudsy surf,
dragged by a long arm on the turf,
an arm black like a seasnail’s skin
and slimy as a salesman’s grin.
The voice within the shell beckons
soft as the shoreline that reckons
the flotsam of the ships aground
on the reef and its heartbeat sound—
the desires that have been denied
by Life, by Love, by tempting tide.
And the voice laps oft at the edge
of the Otherworld, at that ledge
between the waking and the dream,
between daylight and how things seem
to the eye that sleeps otherwise
below the waves and moonlit skies.
The local pastor passes by
and gemstones ensorcel his eye…
The mayor glimpses shiny gold
and nascent greed grows overbold…
The wanton sees a dress to wear
like a jellyfish floating fair…
The widow hears the long-lost tune
of her husband who drowned last June…
Hear you that voice that calls to thee?
Hear you that sweet-tongued usury?
It is his claim he offers much
if you do not shrink from his touch
and give what he asks by his whim—
toe or tongue or a lithesome limb.
The cost is sunk, gone, like a hook
and the bait gone, too, oft mistook
as a thing fishermen can lose
without seeing the gain they choose.
“Tell me your wish, O friend of mine,
and I’ll retrieve from bitter brine,
whether gold bauble or glinting jewel
I shall bring up a gift of Yule.
All I ask, dearest friend of mine,
is a bit o’ this…bit o’ thine,
and that you see how fine a friend
I am to you unto the end.”
Come! Follow my nautilus shell,
spiraling round and down and down,
and forfeit all you have to sell
for riches, rank, revenge, renown!
Come! Do not waste the tidal hour,
but bring forth what things you may trade
to sweeten a life grown so sour
within wreckage the tides have made!