A leather-covered volume with its pages edged in gilt
Slipped from the deck into the sea but, cradled in the silt
Where oxygen could not intrude, nor prying eyes descry
Its ancient glimmer in the mud, a century did lie;
One century—another—no, nine centuries of dark
It passed in sleeping silence after falling from that bark.
And then one day, a ray of light passed through the waves above
Just at the perfect moment for a mermaid, as she dove,
To catch a glimpse of gilded pages in that sea-deep sun
And swim down to investigate this treasure—only one
Quick sparkle of that golden edge brought her so close to look,
To brush aside the lazy silt and so, reveal the book.
Nine hundred years in darkness had it lain in quiet wait
For just this passing moment to wake up, illuminate,
And catch the passing fancy of an unsuspecting maid
Who’d bring it to her grotto in the deepest ocean’s shade.
In dappled dark, her opal eyes lit up the page, and next,
She read it, eager, mesmerized, the calligraphic text
Transforming, leaping from the book, becoming swiftly wild
And glorious, and telling tales that moved the mermaid child
To bend with sorrow, weep with joy; to palpitate with fear;
To live the story as her own; and, as the end drew near,
To grieve that such a magic fable had to end at all,
For it had seemed so rich and real, had held her in such thrall
That she’d begun to think it true, this tale of mythic men
And women wondrous wise and brave—she turned to read again—
Thrice through, in fact, she read the tome, and every time the more
Believed its great, compelling tale of life beyond her shore.
Full hearted, then, she closed the book, but never ceased to wish
That other mermaids, other seas, and other sorts of fish
Than those she knew in her own place were, as the story’s, real,
And though once happy, now she longed to see and hear and feel
What was beyond her native coast. One day she must return
To where she’d found that magic book, and see what she could learn.
One day, indeed, an older lass, but nonetheless enthralled
By the old book (she’d read again six times, if she recalled),
She caught the rolling afternoon’s most fearsome wave and rode
Under its lashing, crashing crest to where the book was stowed
Within its silken, silty bed so long, so long ago,
And knelt down on the ocean’s floor, and watched the water’s flow,
And saw the ripples up above, a thousand fathoms high,
And wished a little inward wish that something from the sky
Up higher still would pierce the waves, would light for her one ray
Of visionary hope the way it had upon that day.
Out of the darkness streaked with kelp, the passing sea life came
To look at her, this pearly lass, but swam off just the same,
For curious though she appeared, they’d naught to give or tell
That would assuage her longing or relieve her of her spell.
For days she hovered in that place, to gaze with fading hope
And heave a soft and bubbling sigh, and comb the gentle slope
To see if some small, overlooked companion to her find
Would rise to hand and help explain; but none was left behind.
At last she turned, quite woebegone, to drift for home, undone,
Her childhood fantasies all dashed—but wait! A ray of sun,
One faded spear, had pierced the deep; it beckoned her to draw
Back to the place her book had lain, and in its light she saw,
But faintly, now, another book, this one yet older still,
And as she took it in her hand, she felt a silent thrill
Race up her spine. She sailed for home as swift as mantas fly,
Gripping her treasure to her heart, this book dropped from the sky.
There in the grotto, as before, she read with trembling care
The prologue to her favored tale, the key unlocking there
The meaning of that history and mystery so grand,
The explication of her longed for never-ever-land.
Page One of this tremendous tome opened the secret wide
And startled her to drop the book, for there she saw inside
The preface to her deepest loved tale of that mystic place
Began with an engraving of her own familiar face!
Around her portrait, mirror-like, the title read, in part,
“The Story of Our Lady-Queen, the Owner of My Heart.”
Her own heart skipped a beat or two ere she once more to read
Took up the opus in her hand, to see where it might lead—
There in the shell-lined grotto sweet, she pored over the lines
Telling her life from this day forth, as writ by kingly hand:
Who authored this spoke of his love, and how she ruled his land
Long years to come, and how, in sum, her people throve as well,
And in the book, she met her love, who had such tales to tell,
And read them through with eager joy, to see what else she’d learn,
‘Til by the end-page she loved too, and had begun to yearn
To know this King and how it came that time had backward spun
So that these books of things yet dreamed fell from the present sun.
The end-page held, as she had hoped, engraved once more, two eyes
Whose gaze made her young, beating heart in recognition rise!
She dashed outside into the swell, and ne’er looked back again,
To find that place the boat was moored, to greet the sailing men,
To follow them to distant seas where they in their bark would roam,