The Mermaid Tank

Stephen Knight

Beneath my weight, the duckboards bow.

Two buckets, slopping water, weigh me down.

A cold wind howls around the cages now,

    While rain sweeps in -across the town-

Again; and while our rheumy-eyed,

    Arthritic monsters fall asleep

        Or vegetate

             I kneel beside

The Songstress of The Deep

      And wait.


All afternoon, the punters pass

     Her tank in single file; because it's dark

Inside, they press their faces to the glass.

     I breathe, at night, on every mark.

Behind my cloth, the water churns

     And curls around our fat dugong

            And when it clears

                 (Like smoke) she turns

Away, and any song

    I hear


Is 'just the wind' or 'my mistake'…

     Outside, discarded handbills catch their wings

On tents or in the mud while, in their wake,

     Paper cups, tickets stubs and things

The rain dismantles every night

    Turn cart-wheels in the foreign air

        Before they throng

            The sky, too light

To settle anywhere

     For long.