The Mermaid Tavern

by Marly Youmans

On Fridays when the girls cast hollowed bread     
—Speared, stoppled, shaken with quickest silver—
Onto the drift of sea
To find by mystic means the place
Where the current-tumbled sailors sleep
Under the pearl-eyed wave,   
The Red King’s courtiers will waive
All work—and weren’t they bred
For leisure days?—all courtliness, all sleep,
To gather up spare gold and silver,
And all to dream and seek an hour and place
Beside the withdrawing sea            
When-and-where each can see,
Wave by frippery wave,
The dowager ocean undone, easing back in place,
And a cavern once corked like bread
With moving silver,
Waters swirling as if half asleep.
Dreams are manifest in sleep,        
And just so, dream-like, the Mermaid rises from the sea,
This tavern of mystery, this silver
Castle, this wave
Palace of wine, brew, and bread,
A sea-scoured, tide-jailed place.
This cavern place                            
Is where the silver fishes hang in sleep
At high tide, and at low is where the bread
And wine of jollity dethrones the jostling sea,
Where waves run caroling forth, and where a wave
Means a hand that calls, freighted with silver,           
To trade for Fool’s sub-lunar wine or Silver
, looking to place
A coin in swap for a bottle of Molten Wave
Or a sack of Jonson’s Sleep,
For the Pale Dewy Reel, for Rubedo Sea
On endless tap, for Loony Brine and Avon-bred,      
For the silver Cataract Shine, for Fletcher’s Bride-White Wave—
While girls, those fishers of men, follow the seaborne bread to a place
Where they fish with golden hooks for boys: who sleep down under the sea.
Find out more about Marly Youmans at
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