Speaking Without Words

You’re a girl in a world where your voice gets cut before people get to listen.

Mother and Father tell you to hush, child,

Let the adults do the talking.


So you grow up in that world, voice shriveling up to nothing.

Who am I? you often ask yourself as your sea-green tail becomes stronger

And as your hair, dusted with sunlight, grows to the smooth planes of your stomach.


You’ve always liked swimming to the human side of your ocean waters,

To where the people with mer torsos and without mer tails frolic.

It’s curious how willing they are to shout and scream and laugh,

Showing off their voices to anyone who could listen.


It makes you wonder what your own voice sounds like.

You haven’t heard it in so long.


Then you are ten years old when you meet a prince—

He is your age and he’s curious about you and your tail.

Can you speak? he asks, and you brighten when your dialects are the same.

(Or perhaps you’ve picked up something from those times spent on sandy, populated shores.)


But you shake your head, and he takes your hands and he makes words with them.

He gives you a name—a human name that sounds lyrical and not harsh like your mer name.

You fall in love with your prince as you grow

But when you are both fifteen he suddenly has to leave.

And your voice is cut again when there is no one to understand the words that come from every flick of your wrist and curve of your fingers.


Then when you are eighteen years old, there is a storm and a boat and a prince.

The prince you you fell in love with, are in love with,

The one who taught you to speak without ever using your voice,

Falls into your realm and you meet him halfway.


As you lie together under the moonlight, a song of made of stars pours from your throat,

And you finally understand why Mother and Father forbade you from speaking.

Because your voice becomes life, and your voice heals every cut and laceration on the boy you love.

And you smile because your voice is beautiful and it does beautiful things.


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