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featured poet, Angela Kirby

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An After-taste of Salt

Men, they never know what they want –
at first they can’t get enough of us,
our phosphorescent breasts,
the way our bodies flicker in the dark,
the sequined flick of our tails,
that risky, salt-aftertaste of anchovies
and seaweed, and us being always
a little ahead of them somewhere,
way out beyond their bowsprits,
oh, they swear then we’ll be mistress
of their hearts, queen of their hearth
and home, no jewel too rare for us,
we shall toil not, neither shall we spin –
and occasionally we believe them,
tell ourselves it might be worth a shot
but once they have us ashore,
when the shine and novelty wear off,
they don’t know what to make of us,
so stay out late or stare into the fire,
take to drink, ignore us, wish
they had thrown us back
while the women cross themselves,
draw in their skirts, walk
on the other side of the road
and teach the children to catcall,
to jeer that we smell of fish.

Angela Kirby

first published in Magma, 2001;
in collection Mr Irresistible, Shoestring Press, 2005