Ballad

after David Thomson

Greyscale portrait of Luke Hathaway superimposed against a green background.

Listen to an audio version of this poem as read by Daniel Cabena.

I was well past child-bearing years
and children had, though only three,
when I was walking on the strand
and a sea-grey selkie said to me,

      O come away, my beautiful one,
      arise and come away with me.
      I am a man upon the land,
      I am a selkie in the sea.

O how can I away with you?
A man I have, and children three.
If you had come when I was young
I would have gone away with thee.

      And home I went to my husband true
      and bounced my babies on my knee,
      but my dreams were full of the selkie’s song
      and the Eli, Eli of the sea.

So I went down to the shore again
and said, All right, I’ll go with thee:
come up and claim what is thine own.

No answer came from the seal-grey sea.

      So I went home to my husband true
      and sang to my beautiful children three,
      I am a woman on the land,
      I am a selkie in the sea.

O come away my beautiful one.
O why hast thou forsaken me?

Luke Hathaway
Luke Hathaway is a trans poet who teaches English and creative writing at Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax. His latest collection of poems, The Affirmations, was published in April.

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