There’s a mermaid in the Bridge Street fountain.
My dad’s dad saw her once,
while weaving his way home from the pub.
Fresh from the Front,
his heart still clogged with Flanders mud,
he saw her, her back to him,
combing the tear drops from her hair,
transferring them to his eyes,
which previously had not shed a drop.
He never told anyone,
because he knew they’d have an explanation
and they’d offered him enough explanations
for the inexplicable.
My own dad saw her once,
while choosing between home and oblivion.
Fresh from the Burma railroad,
his heart still clogged with degradation,
he heard her, her back to him,
calling the lost and singing their stories,
transferring them to his voice
which previously could not form their names.
At home, his father looked into his eyes;
a few brief words were shared,
and then the subject was left,
with no explanations.
My dad never told anyone else
but throughout his life, from time to time,
he painted pictures of the Bridge Street fountain
and kept them in his ‘den’.
When my mother died and we sat in
mutual, uncomprehending misery,
he told me about the mermaid in the fountain.
I offered him explanations to do with
trauma and fatigue and disassociation,
and he looked at me with disappointed eyes
and never mentioned it again.