"The Mermaid Loses Her Voice" by Jeannine Hall Gailey
I haven't done one of these in a while; it's long overdue.
Today I want to share "The Mermaid Loses Her Voice," written in the point-of-view of Anderson's little mermaid. It's featured on Rose Red Review. With the first line, this poem lulls and gains listener interest in a down-to-earth, conversational tone.
I don’t know what they told you, but it wasn’t for love.
I was the disobedient daughter, the one who couldn’t bear
a life on the waves. I wanted to be something new.
I am reminded of "The Mermaid Sets the Story Straight" by Debra Cash. The titles of both poems give the mermaid an action and prepare the reader to hear the narrative in the mermaid's voice. But they are quite different in what they accomplish.
Jeff Simpson, The Little Mermaid, source
While Ms. Cash's poem is, well--aggressive, subversive berating?--in accord with the connotations a phrase like "setting the story straight" conjures, Ms. Gailey's title is more passive. Her mermaid loses something.
We know the story goes that she loses her capability for speech, but Mrs. Gailey's mermaid is given a voice in this poem, regardless of title. What, then, has the little mermaid lost? I think it is something less obvious than vocal cords.
"The prince was merely an interlude," she says. "I was lonely."
Men loved me for my body, so unavailable, unassailable….
they tried to catch me in nets. Now I’m one more
long-haired lass in low-cut jeans in a tavern, listening to them
boast about conquering the sea. But I am the sea.
I sense a heroine who once had been Ms. Cash's, now reflecting in the wisdom of experience. She left the sea, but she was the sea; she "was tired of mystery," but the sea was her voice. How can she escape? And why did she ever want to?
The word "inevitable" in the last line is final as a bell-toll. Do read the poem in its entirety.
If it is possible to say one poem is better than another (and I'm not so sure it is), I wouldn't be fit to say it. But I think it should be obvious which one of these I prefer.