They found the mermaid the morning after.
She was the colour of homemade toffee, burnt
in places, mellow in others. Her hair fragile
as flax. Her beautiful, brittle fins. When the man
who found her, lifting the seaweed veiling her face,
knelt at her hip, his breath like broken glass, she
looked to him like she would crumble to the touch.
Around him, the shore lay shattered like the
heart of a woman who knows her mother has
turned against her. He traced with hands anxious
with liquor the aghast shape of her jaw. Her bones.
Her ribs like stacked haloes, her tough browned
skin. The delicate, exquisite patterns of her scales.
The sharp, ridged points at which her tail flared
into a crescent, a sinewed handheld fan.
His tears came slowly, at first, and then in little
detonations of despair. The first lesson of the ocean,
he had always known, was reciprocity. What the
mother took from mortals, she would return in
equal fervour. Her sleeping child coiled into
the tentacles of weed and debris, sucked deep
within the womb and expelled like so many other
bodies. He listened to her roar then and heard not
cruelty, not death, but hideous, intolerable grief.
(For back story, please see here)