“The Ninth Wave,” oil on canvas, by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1850.

by Emily Bornstein

Don’t tell me there isn’t something pretty about you
(don’t tell me you don’t know it).

There’s something mythic and flagrant about the
way you gargle to us from underwater. About the way
you brandish all the bleached skulls in your pocket
(and about the way we’d all drown with dopey smiles
for the chance to be added to your watery bone dust
trophy case).

There was a sailor once.

He was gawky with pointy
yellow teeth, unkempt brows,
and beady close-set eyes. He followed
you, gaping with mesmerization, reaching
with outstretched arms.
You told me you loved him but you
can’t love (and don’t tell me you
don’t know it).

I am not a sailor.

There was another man who
you met one day when you were
hungry. They say your song is
amazingly addictive to sing,
so you sang.
So he drowned.

I am not a sailor.

Sometimes, you make me feel weak (like a limp sail licking for tastes of the wind,
catching nothing). And sometimes, my siren, I feel weak when I consider
how readily I’d drown in your song if only I were a sailor.

Other times, though, I have moments of clarity. Gentle moments
in which I find twinges of relief upon grasping my chest,
feeling the things entwined in my soul,
and remembering that I can
never give them away to you.

Thank God I’m not a sailor.

omega man

Emily Bornstein presently attends high school in Long Island. She serves as editor-in-chief of her school’s newspaper and its literary magazine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cacti Fur, Edison Literary Review, and Steam Ticket.