Sunday, September 9, 2007
My photo is of a folk art mermaid near Hollandale, Wisconsin. Her creator was Nick Englebert, an immigrant farmer who in the 1930's created a whole yard full of fanciful statues from cement and bits of broken glass after he visited the Dickeyville Grotto. My sisters-in-law and I took a road trip this week and saw both sites.
In the Cold Country
by Barbara Howes
We came so trustingly, for love, but these
Lowlands, flatlands, near beneath the sea
Point with their cautionary bones of sand
To exorcise, submerge us; we stay free
Only as mermaids glittering in the waves:
Mermaids of the imagination, young
A spring ago, who know our loveliness
Banished, like fireflies at winter’s breath,
Because none saw; these vines about our necks
We placed in welcome once, but now as wreath
Against the scalpel cold; still cold creeps in
To grow like ivy over our chilling bodies
Into our blood. Now in our diamond dress
We wive only the sequins of the sea.
The lowlands have rejected us. They lie
Athwart the whispering waters like a scar
On a mirage of glass; the dooming land,
Where nothing can take root but frost, has won.
And what of warmth and what of joy? They are
Sequestered elsewhere, southward, where the sun
Speaks. For all our mermaid vigilance
And balance, all goes under; underneath
The land’s gray wave we falter and fall back
To hibernate within the caves of death.