The Bleach Field


When you caught me on the beach

the moon’s lamp burning low,

I was all seal. My blue flesh tangled

in a net with seaweed and mussel shells.


When you brought me to the croft

and laid me near the hearth to warm

I shed my skin and became

a woman formed pale as quartz; my hair firelight

loosened in the dusk.


You looked at me, my fear sharp enough

to scratch the mirror’s glass but still

your hands seized my fur and hung it near

some knit clothing and iron tools. From the pines


loose dirt blew under the door

and scattered along its sill

like black powder. When morning came


shorebirds flew in the distance

and I wept. You carried my pelt

to a field where farm women had spread

damp wool to dry and raw linen

to lighten in the sun. A young man


wanting to keep his wife, you stretched

my fur over rock, bidding the light

to bleach the sea. Its strong smell

and instinct to wander back.


  1. Wendy,

    This is an expert weave of lore and language.
    It wraps itself around the reader until the skin
    is damp with mist, and the sea air fills the room.

    ‘The Bleach Field’ not only reads as an ancient legend, it is
    timeless in the telling of the plight suffered by some women.
    Your poem is a fine example of the power of the pen.

    Superlative in every sense!



  2. Hi Sarah

    So glad you enjoyed this one — it is ,too, one of my personal favorites because of the subject matter. I have always loved the Gaelic and British folktales of the “selkie” of seal maiden/woman who shape shifts into human form when she comes on land. Often in the tales, she is caught by a man seeking to domesticate her and make her his bride. Unfortunately, as is the truth in nature, you cannot force someone or some species to conform to an alien habitat when its wild and free instincts desire or say otherwise. Even if he tried to bleach the sea out of her pelt ( while she remained in human form) he still could not wipe the sea from her spirit /heart. Again many thanks for this lovely and wonderful commentary!

    Take care
    My Best to you, always


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