Selkie in Flemington

Poem by Shalom Leaf

I checked the pelt. I had land business, real
estate, air rights, mixed uses, triple nets.
Those naked enterprises grew on me;
I was in the flow, immersed, in deep,
no sleep, no weekend to my week, no neap,
in me the bore tide roared; I was the pen,
articulating clauses fishbone-fine,
wolfing midnight urchin in pale rooms,
closing on grubby deals with shiny tails.
 
It wasn’t love, but cash. Forget the tales:
the pale maid with her gravlax breath, her whim-
doffed skin, the leering fisher groom, the filch
and wed. You beach yourself. How else to bring
the salmon home, dicker for our captives,
palaver with the fleets? Who else could school
the feral urban sprats in mammal rights,
or had the guts to splash those murdered pups
across the New York Times for Save the Seals?
 
Who had the time to take that trolling bus,
crammed in with greasy gamblers, each one charmed?
To drag that fishy hide, do the cabana
slash phone booth number, hit the beach, flip-flop,
risk kinky cops and slick lifeguards to breast
possessive surf again? Who then could bear
salty farewells, regards, returns, self-flensing,
fathomless thin air, double exposure,
herring scales in teeth, resistant whiskers?
 
But now, I’m plunging—thirty land years later,
after frantic digging down among
the old indentures—I found my lucky ticket!
And clasp its faded digits still in mine,
still joined and several; still my body waits
in human lines, behind the fox, mink, otter—
stoles! These glabrous larvae, all tricked out,
bound by greenbacked fairy tales, as if
they could spin marvels, hair by golden hair.
 
Of course, I should have called ahead. Mine’s in
the deepest freeze, not in their system, please,
they need their supervisor and my patience.
But I can smell my skin. I know it’s there,
each strand’s a fuse—lightning crackles through
the vault, hair rises on these tightening limbs,
this belly billows like a womb. Why, thanks,
ride’s here, can’t wear it now. My throat, my teeth!
The car is surging ink—I’ll swim, I swim.