Part Thee and Me
for the children of Lochlann
by Beth Winegarner

reaching for sealskin


Last thing I remember before washing up on this shore
Was the bright, jutting pain of the harpoon.
Our blood has stained these seas before,
Birth-blood and death-blood, salt mingling
With the bracken of storm-tossed shallows
And our falling numbers.

We lose our skins here. Sometimes to the trappers
Who hunt for their own greed,
Sometimes to lovers who take us whole
And hide our cloaks so that we must remain.
Among them there are few who know who we are,
But we are.


His arms, like liquid gold and just as hot,
Lifted me to the sky. He took me to the woods,
Tried to bury me in blankets inside his blood-red
House. He took me in.

The air was thin, but heavy with white caresses
Of fog wrapped around the dark, pointed trees.
I walked among them, watching the sky,
Which looked like the sea after a storm,
While his eyes, like the sea from below on a sunny morning,
Watched me.

I could go no further than his leash allowed,
Not even when I met the unicorn on the path,
Or the old woman who turned us inside out
And told me he was not the One. But I could not go
Back until I found my skin. The one he stole.


One night, high on mushrooms, he walked down
To where the town begins, then returned. "You can hear
The lighthouse out there at night," he explained.

"Do you really need to hear that awful sound?"
I asked. "Every time it blows, it means another
Boat reaches shore safely, while another of my clan
Bleeds to death on its splintered deck
In the dark."

He turned, away from the direction of the sea,
Salt water staining his cheeks. "I don't know why you
Brought me here," I continued. "You rescued me from
I was dying, drying out on his shore, thirsty for greater waters
Than those beneath his eyes.


"I don't know where your skin is," he snarled for the seventh
Time. Sometimes he wished me away.
But I was his prize, won at the edge of the world,
As if in a great battle. His victory. So I walked
Out of that dying red house, and I took the unicorn with me.

He chased me to the waterline, lungs heaving,
Arms flapping, but I discovered my coat under
Sharp and heavy rocks. "Don't go," he begged, watching
As the tide turned the unicorn to a narwhal and set her free.
"I am not yours," I replied.
"She was not yours. We are water through your hands.
We are sand in your mouth."

His hand touched mine, and for a moment he was
True. The wind came and blew him away,
A piece of dry paper, ink already fading the
Promises he'd made. And I slipped into my skin,
Went to the sea, felt her embrace,
And dove under again.


Sometimes I return to this shore,
Or shores just like it, and imagine I am looking for him.
But I think the wind stole his name,
Or his memory; either one is
Death to his kind.

My name is forever here, never spoken and always asked
My belly is against these stones,
The cold water sliding off my back.
My heart races with the advancing fog; I linger
As another boat is shipwrecked
In the tide.