A Mermaid in Its Vanity

Sandals of wood sink when she blinks,
     men we think of as wise prophets
     sage their caves with pages that stink
     of flesh when burned, apocrypha
     stretching so far that when she sings,
     the rotten breath of lies breaks what
          wisdom her thin hymen hides, pale
          water scholars of miracles

mistake for one as she comes, pink
     passage some fools take for granted
     as they search her (w)hole for something
     to blow, pouring out their souls, wet
     antidotes curing what craving
     does to such men so long without
          proof of love they can touch, gospel
          doubt their pens prick, thirsting for tail

and travel as though conquering
     women was worth such travail, myths
     of virgins—schools of them—swimming
     like untouched knowledge through thick heads
     filled with crippling visions that sink
     ships and part lips, legs astride depths
          the doomed breadth of which each one fails
          to sense, walking seas to angels

vanity blinds them from seeing
     as mermaids, sighing epithets
     and praises those most unkind things
     with cake-moist voices know so well
     will lure to death-by-sweetness kings
     and princes, as if tasting its
          honey makes a bold man able
          to fly as a bee does, her veils

lifted as his caution falls, wings
     given to every hermit
     wishing to listen to beings
     who call to him, any instead
     of his own conscience, that weak thing
     unable to think as witches
          enchant starved ascetics with spells
          feeding dreams with fish salt repels,

but breaking her charm’s not what links
     these patriarchs in their conquest,
     chained as they are to her by rings
     each offers out of hunger—debt
     to the loins trumps one’s stomach—stings
     of a whip pleasing if a kiss,
          even just a peck, will avail
          them its blush, as they drown in wails.