May 20, 2016

Poetry Friday--"Instructions to Mother Skate's Au Pair"


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

Don't ask me where this came from. It started with a line about mermaids and somehow ended up as you see above. If you're not familiar with a mermaid's purse, the purse reference might be puzzling. Along the beaches here in New England, I've often come upon the little black cases known as "mermaid's purses." I originally thought they were bladders, like some seaweeds (bladder wrack) have to keep them afloat. I was wrong! The cases contain, or once contained, a baby skate! Here's a short article about mermaid's purses that has good photos. (Skates and rays are related according to a Wikipedia entry.

I don't generally write in rhyme (and for good reason--squid and live?), but this poem pushed me in that direction. I had to indulge myself in some punning to get through it!

If you are having difficulty reading the text in the illustration:
Instructions to Mother Skate's Au Pair

Please carry my offspring beneath your arm,
safe and secure, away from all harm.

I need not be tethered all night and all day
watching over a baby who gets in the way

of my own pursuit of bivalves and squid,
shrimps and crabs--why, I need them to live!

As long as you are an adequate nurse,
in exchange, dear Mermaid, you'll get a purse.

Margaret at Reflections on the Teche is hosting the Round-Up today--see you there!

31 comments:

  1. Your title alone reeled me in, Diane. ;) Very interesting about the mermaid purse... and well done with the rhyming too!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle, titles can be a lot of fun.

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  2. Wow, all these years growing up in New England, all these years spending my summers at the ocean...and I've never heard of this or seen one! Thanks for enlightening me, Diane, so whimsically!

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    1. Next time you go to the beach, look in the piles of seaweed that collect along the water's edge. That's where you'll find them.

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  3. I love this form. I have been playing with couplets (nonrhyming). Love the illustration.

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    1. I like couplets, too, they're less intimidating for both the writer and the reader!

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  4. I love that last couplet especially! And I rather appreciate a near-rhyme (squid/live) -- often prefer it over a true rhyme, as it's a bit of a surprise and more interesting to me as a reader. xo

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    1. I too, find near-rhymes more interesting, but I've often received push-back from my critique partners. Obviously there is need for improvement on my part!

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  5. I'm off to the ocean soon, will look for mermaid's purses, Diane. I've heard the term, but didn't know it was for a baby skate, wow. I like your couplets, giving a rather imperial voice to that "au pair".

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    1. At one time I thought they held shark eggs. I'm not quite sure where I got that from!

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  6. Mermaid's purses are fascinating. My students love to learn about them. Your couplets work so well together.

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  7. How creative you are! I enjoyed this immensely. And I laughed at your instructions not to ask where this came from. Those poems that come from nowhere are wonderful!

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    1. I sometimes have to shake my head over how a poem began and how it ended up. That's what makes writing magic!

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  8. You learn something new every day! Had no idea what a mermaid's purse was, or how it looked. Fascinating stuff. Glad you took that poetic journey and ended up with a cool poem. :)

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    1. Thanks, Jama. I think the next time Poetry Friday readers go to the beach, they'll all be poking through piles of seaweed!

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  9. Always a delight to stop by here, Diane - for poetry and for learning something new!

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    1. It's a good day when you've learned something new!

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  10. Elegant writing and an educational surprise at the end. I can imagine your poem as the Mother Skate's calling card.

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    1. Mother Skate is like many of the mothers I see in the up-scale community where I work--ssh, don't tell them.

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  11. Delightful is definitely the right word - thanks for the poetic fun and the nature notes, too. :0)

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    1. Always here to delight AND educate!

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  12. Terrific, Diane! Clever, educational, unexpected.

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  13. I've seen them, of course, but never heard the term nor the story. Lovely!

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    1. I never heard the term until I moved to New England.

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  14. So clever. "Skate's purse" is news to me. I like how you've used rhyme...the perfect poem for it.

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    1. Thanks! Rhyme is not my favorite, so I'm glad it worked.

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  15. I knew they were skate eggs, but not mermaid purses! Having spent so little time on beaches, it sounds like I'm lucky to have seen them and know what they are! Yours is the first poem I've ever seen about one, though!

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    1. I've used "mermaid's purse" in a 2011 15 words or less challenge:

      My Summer Vacation Revisited

      A plastic bucket
      in the back of the garage
      spiderwebs, and mermaid's
      purses still sandy.

      I probably have a haiku or two, too. I do like the whole mermaid purse idea!

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  16. I didn't know about the truth about mermaid purses. Very interesting. And your poem is wonderful!

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