, , , , , , , , ,



My love built me a paper boat
to float upon the sea

across its flimsy hull he wrote
in script too small to see

with eyelash of an octopus
as brush, and ink of squid

the magic words to bring us back
when one sees fit to quit.

A magnifying glass I held
to that wee paper boat

attempting to decipher what
my love had sweetly wrote.

I thought I caught a word or two
but then came Mr. Sun

who lit what I had magnified
and burnt it into crumbs

of ash that blew across the sky.
Oh, crap, I thought, now what?

My love will have a fit when he
sees how I crisped our boat.

In fear, I found myself a clam
and asked if I could rent

his shell to hide myself until
I’d figured how to tell

the news. The clam said yes, but when
you’re done, be sure to leave

the shell behind for someone else
to find and hide inside.

Good shells, they don’t come cheap, you know,
and everyone’s afraid.


I hid inside my puny case
and read the daily news;

I texted friends and buffed my nails,
did anything I choose

and wondered why my love had not
come round to say hello.

I cranked the lid and peered outside
in time to see the tail

of Jupiter the Whale before
he swallowed everything.


The darkness here inside the gut
has no apparent end

and Jupiter can’t feel me when
I poke him with my nail

so I decide to sing about
my lover’s beauteous ways

his touch and smell, the smile he wears
when life is going well

and as I start to sing I hear
weird stirrings all around

that grow to voices, weak at first,
that rise, a mighty swell

and soon we’re all a-weeping ‘bout
the loves we left behind;

ahead is surely nothing, sniff!
but more, oh, woe betide…

discouraged by the swallowed mob
I wonder how to squelch

their ever-pining misery
when suddenly a belch

erupts that pours the seven seas
across new land—I’m free!


This island with the coconuts
is big enough for two—

a sandy beach, a woven hut,
there’s nothing much I need to do.

The squid whose ink my lover used
to write has told the octopus

whose lashes have grown in,
exactly where I am, and lo!

before the sun has set, my love
arrives upon his boat

full grown, no longer paper, and
I see the words and laugh. What

happens next, we will not share.
You’ll have to ask the birds.


© Elaine Stirling, 2013