I Heard my Own Siren Song, and Followed It (a poem) by Marie Cartier

They didn’t know I was a mermaid.

               That I had a siren song.

               That I could lure, and I could kill.

               And that I would eventually

               because – I was a mermaid.

When my father tried to throw my brother

down a flight of stairs, I jumped on him.

Six feet tall. I was ten years old.

But I had the tail. He had

nothing. Against. All. I. was.

               I was a sea creature. I was kind,

               but I was still a sea creature. So, when another

               brother asked, who do you think you are?

               I hit him hard so he would know

               he had to listen. If I told him to hide, he had to hide. I

               was a mermaid. I had a tail.

I wouldn’t be there forever.

I would leave them all behind.

The five siblings attached to me would

need to find their own way. I wasn’t the mother.

The real mother was upstairs; she had no song left.

               But I had a song. And I could hear the

               sea calling me back as soon as I could hear.

               As soon as I could speak, my first

               word was No. As soon as I could speak.

               As soon as I could taste, I knew the sea

               would taste salty and I would want it want it

               want it as soon as I could taste.

               As soon as I could feel, I felt wet.

               Tears are salty, so I cried as

               soon as I could feel, so I would

               remember my salt, my

               tail split, instead of legs.

               And as soon as I could smell,

               I knew I would find her. Fish can

               smell. It would all smell

               different. It would smell enchanting. It would

               smell like home. As soon as I

               could smell, I smelled Her, and I

               knew… I knew.

A candle was lit in that home

where I was born. It wanted me

to burn myself up

so, others would be warm. And I did that.

               I did that. I did that.

I was a candle. I was orange, yellow, white.


But a candle also burns blue.

I was a mermaid. And I could

               hear my own song. At night when I put out

               the light I would try with all my might

               to be water, not fire.

               I was a candle then. But, I remembered, blue.

               And I knew. I was really blue…blue…blue.

I was the only mermaid there.

I knew I couldn’t be a candle flame forever.

I would slip under the water.

And so, I left behind the mother crying, and

the father crying, and the children crying.

I took my split tail, and my salt,

and my song. I found my

sparkle and I too that, too.

I forgive the children crying, to the

mermaid, light the light, light the light.

               No one could see

               the fist coming so fast

               or the belt, the stairs, the…

               everything…someone turn on the light.

I forgive the mother, the father for thinking

they knew who I was.

               I do not forgive them for what they did

               to who I was.

               My mermaid tail split to a core I didn’t

               know I had, a blue beating heart.


Once I got wet, once I got away, once I found my tail,

               once I found salt,

               I could look back.

But, as they say, don’t stare.

And so, I forgive myself, for finding my song,

and singing it.

Bless the split tail. And the

pod she found.

Bless the deep .

Bless the song I never knew I could sing,

until I sang it.

Bless the possible.

And I sing it now.

Bless the possible.

And I sing it now.

— Marie Cartier

California, March 2021

With thanks to Cuties LA Poetry Workshop and instructor Xavier (@cutiesla; @truxav)

Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.

15 thoughts on “I Heard my Own Siren Song, and Followed It (a poem) by Marie Cartier”

  1. A deeply moving poem of courage and hope over violence and trauma. Thank you for posting it. It reminds me of the stories of the selkies, seal-women who emerge out of the waters to come on the beach, shedding their seal-skins to play in their human form. A man always comes and steals their seal-skin, their true self, and hides it, forcing them to remain as human women and be wives and mothers. Years later, they always find their skins and return to the sea, their real home.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. an awesome expression. I feel a resonance … there was violence in my childhood, thought different, and I was called “Glenny-menny fishtail” by a childhood friend, for no known reason, but it gave me a feeling for being mermaid: certainly Melusine is a later name and Deity who manifest. This: “… I forgive myself, for finding my song,…”. I think I need this fairly often, for the suffering caused to others in that process, and to myself. Thank you for this beautiful poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. I knew you were courageous, but I didn’t know how much and for how long and when your courage manifested. Hooray for mermaids! Hooray for heras! Bright blessings to the mermaid and the song.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A truly powerful poem. It characterizes domestic violence, and the attendant trauma and heartbreak, in a way I’ve never quite heard before. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh wow, reading this I sure could sense the vulnerability and the danger present. And at every step, the courage, the hoping and the fierce protection of those younger.



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