A selkie is a magical creature that appears in Irish, Scandinavian, and Native folklore: a seal in the water who can transform into a woman on land…
Her stories are often sad because she is caught between the demands of the earth and the sea. In some versions, she is captured by a man who takes her coat, so she can’t transform back into a seal and be free in the ocean. In others, she gives up her life as a woman, transforming back into a seal even though she knows she can’t go back, in order to save the human man she loves – a sailor who is trapped in a storm at sea. Either way, whether she has a choice or not, her experience is one of loss.
My poem is a picture of redemption for the selkie’s relationship with her lover. Rather than being torn between her two selves, she chooses to be human, and even though she passes through the trial of the desert, she finds in her experience of real love an ocean that is deeper and more beautiful than any she has ever known. For me, the selkie’s experience revealed here is a parable for healing from sexual assault.
Selkie Finds The Sea
by Jane Beal
I went into the desert with my lover.
He was carrying a cobalt blue wine bottle
in one hand. We reached a place
where we stopped: there was nothing
but golden sand, as far as the eye could see,
and the sun was hot and bright.
My lover is a magician – a good one,
an artist. He uncorked the wine bottle,
and do you know what was inside?
My ocean, my deep, deep Ocean,
my Mystery was inside, and he poured it out,
and I was laughing for joy!
I ran to the waves like a child,
and plunged into their beloved embrace,
but I remained a woman, a beautiful woman,
as whole as the day as I was born,
as pure as rain in the North,
as true as a bright-white star in the Sky.
When my lover saw that I did not change,
he came into the waves with me,
and he embraced me in his arms.
O, how I love you, Selkie-girl –
I love how you are.
Jane Beal: I am a writer, educator, and midwife. I currently teach at UC Davis, and lately, I've been welcoming babies in northern California. I've previously worked at Wheaton College and Colorado Christian University, teaching literature, creative writing, and composition and rhetoric, and I've served as a midwife in the U.S., Uganda, and the Philippines. My work often involves me in the care of sexual abuse and assault survivors. As a poet, I've published several books, including Sanctuary (Finishing Line Press, 2008) and Rising (Wipf and Stock, 2015), as well as three recording projects that combine poetry and music: Songs from the Secret Life, Love-Song, and with my brother, saxophonist and composer Andrew Beal, The Jazz Bird. I also write fiction, creative non-fiction, literary criticism, and studies of collegiate pedagogy. You can learn more about me at my website here or connect with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blessings on your journey!
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