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"They mustn’t see you."
Your hand pushes me back into the cold.
For a second, I don’t know how to breathe underwater.
Then I remember again. Riverbed is home.
Tides fold over me, smooth and sweet, asking:
what could be worth burning your voice out, up there?
Begging: be safe, stay with us.
But I will leave.

Your fingers combing through my seaweed hair:
this is how I know your love.
You, coming back for every song. Not afraid.
You, knowing I’d slip like water from your palms.
You, loving the fleeting currents, the hungry waves.
Courting the undertow itself.
Sinking, breathless, into me; hoping it would take you whole.
I won’t let it. I push you back
into rash light, dust, and air.

The trace in sand won’t reveal
the fire I held in my mouth, or water in yours.
It’s just bodies.
Lips to lips. Imprints of us
like mirror halves of a shell.
After all, it’s the sameness
we yearned for.

We never were strangers to one another.
This is the only thing they mustn’t see.


Author's Note: One of the origin stories in Polish folklore is the legend of a fisherman, Wars, falling in love with a mermaid named Sawa. However, Sawa is a traditional male name; and while calling Wars’ lover by it might be a quirk of folk tradition, I believe it points to an entirely different story.


Karolina Fedyk is a Polish writer of speculative poetry and fiction. Likes learning new languages, coffee, owls, and living in extreme latitudes. Tweets as @karigrafia.
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20 Mar 2023

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