The Mermaid Tank

by Stephen Knight

Beneath my weight, the duckboards bow.
    Two buckets, slopping water, weigh me down.
A cold wind howls around the cages now,
    While rain sweeps in – across the town –
Again; and while our rheumy-eyed,
    Arthritic monsters fall asleep
        Or vegetate
             I kneel beside
The Songstress of The Deep
    And wait.

All afternoon, the punters pass
    Her tank in single file; because it’s dark
Inside, they press their faces to the glass.
    I breathe, at night, on every mark.
Behind my cloth, the water churns
    And curls around our fat dugong
        And when it clears
             (Like smoke) she turns
Away, and any song
    I hear

Is ‘just the wind’ or ‘my mistake’
    Outside, discarded handbills catch their wings
On tents or in the mud while, in their wake,
    Paper cups, tickets stubs and things
The rain dismantles every night
    Turn cart-wheels in the foreign air
        Before they throng
             The sky, too light
To settle anywhere
    For long.