"A Mermaid," John William Waterhouse, 1900, Royal Academy of Arts, Wikiart photo.
“A Mermaid,” John William Waterhouse, 1900, Royal Academy of Arts, Wikiart photo.

At dawn of my creation, I remember certain
Transitory feelings, skilled hands of a wood
Carver, my form roughhewn with repeated
Hammer taps on his chisel, a metallic rapping
That awakened me as curled shavings fell
Away, gradually revealing my image concealed
Within a hefty block of oaken wood.

Accompanying deliberate hammer tapping,
I recollect hearing distant male voices, mostly
Older, an inquisitive ship’s boy, and pungent
Whiffs of pipe tobacco smoke. As my form
Took shape from an amorphous wood block,
My creator, the attentive craftsman, spoke in
Advising terms about a mermaid, flowing hair,
Guiding eyes of a ship’s regal figurehead.

For several days, they discussed, oft in heated
Voices about my name. Persistent in his pipe-
Puffing opinion, my creator announced it as
“Meridian,” destined for Arctic research vessel,
HMS Sea Cloud, a three-masted ocean steamer.
Still without sight, I had much to consider,
Sequestered in a shipyard workshop, redolent
of paint, oakum and pine tar, listening in
Dismay to sailors’ unvarnished yarns.

With careful sanding, my face was near comple-
Tion, a classical Greek female likeness. More light
Chiseling lifted my hair in flowing streams, thick
And windswept, curling serpent-like at my
Shoulders. Bestowed with sea-goddess strength
And eyes wideset, I would gaze knowingly upon
Arctic waters, guiding the Sea Cloud through ice-
Cluttered heaving brine.

In aesthetic modesty, my creator, a father of
Two daughters, graced my breasts with fluted
Clam shells, and endowed me with muscled
Arms, protecting my sea-exposed female form.
Descending from my torso, a scaled mermaid
Body and tail curled along my back. In essence,
My body was complete aside from painting,
Final stages of figurehead awakening.

Reminiscent of Greek statues, all agreed on
Dark hair and eyes, and alabaster complexion.
However, I thought otherwise, and in my first
Effort to guide, I stressed to my creator, my
Face, breasts, and arms should be sun-burnished,
That notions of pale Greeks were historically
Incorrect, as they or we loved colorful paints,
Gold embellishment, artistry lost to antiquity,
To textbooks never known.

Once affixed to ship’s prow, noble Sea Cloud
Ventured north to Iceland and to Greenland
Western shores, traversing whale paths of
Vikings, Kane, and Hayes. In Bristol fashion,
We performed sea duties, long-lasting and
Far-seeing, to safely guide my master amongst
Perilous icebergs, leads, and brash, our position
Precisely measured from Greenwich, England
And to my namesake, the Prime Meridian.

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