She reappeared at sea beyond the edge of safety,
Nipples and scales, cryptic roe, and breasts
Now bared in troughs, now hidden by the crests;
Her aberrant gleams will recombine insatiably
In some rare mix of viable and vestigial;
Throughout the caudal fin, mammalian heat is used
So closely that selachian curves can fuse
The predator’s cunning and the maiden’s vigil.
And mermen never were. For hominid males,
Her golden hair evolved from modified scales
To blind the lighthouse, blur at night the flares
Of ships in distress, progenitrix of betrayals.
In and out of myth, in some improbable niche,
The mermaid lives where Nature fit her
Fey alleles, each form by deaths enriched
And never old, nor in exquisiteness bitter.
NOTES for Students of English
Cryptic – Secret, occult; enigmatic, mysterious; serving to conceal; unrecognized.
Roe – The eggs of a fish.
Caudal Fin – Tail fin.
Selachian – (Pronounced se-LAKE-ee-an) – Pertaining to sharks and rays, from the Greek word selachos, a cartilaginous phosphorescent fish.
Hominid – Pertaining to the family of primate mammals (including humans) having two feet.
Progenitrix – A female progenitor; a direct ancestor or biologically ancestral form. The –trix suffix denoting a female derives from Latin. Many nouns ending in –trix were adopted into English in the 15th century and later. They are rare in modern American English and survive in specialized words such as aviatrix, dominatrix, and executrix.
Fey – Enchanted or otherworldly; portending death, accursed, unlucky (formerly obsolete), from Middle English feie. The adjective “fey” suggests the noun “fay” meaning a fairy, sprite, or elf, from Middle English faie.
Allele – (Pronounced a-LEEL) – A variant form of a gene.