What Do Mermaids Do?

I am an old sailor
And I’ve parted seven seas,
From Boston to Calcutta
I’ve put canvas to the breeze!
Now I live on an island
And when I need to take a walk,
From time to time I go down
To my little wooden dock,
And don’t you know,
There I chat with an ancient loggerhead
Who goes by Turtle Joe

He too has traveled far and wide,
Around this great blue globe,
And though I can spin a yarn
With Turtle Joe I can’t compete
To see the things he’s seen,
I’d need flippers instead of feet!
And of all the many tales
That I have heard Joe tell,
My favorite was the story of a mermaid
Who hailed him like a taxi,
And caught a ride upon his shell!

One day as I sat on the dock
Smoking me pipe and scratching me head,
I asked Turtle Joe a question,
And this is what we said:
“I wonder, could you tell me Joe,
I have never seen a mermaid,
They are so very shy, I’ve heard you say,
But I find myself wondering
What is it mermaids do all day?

Well, said Joe,
In ninety years under the sea,
Of mermaids, I’ve seen quite a few,
And these are some of the many things
That I have seen them do…
I’ve seen them cuddle with cuttlefish,
And rest their sleeping heads on jellyfish,
Drifting gently up and down
On tranquil currents all day,

And when in livelier moods
On trumpet fish I’ve heard them play,
For you see, Joe said excitedly,
Every serious mermaid laughs and sings
And sometimes they play the drum fish
Or strum a guitar fish’s strings!

“Oh Joe,” I cried, “once me thought
I heard a mermaid’s high, ethereal song,
And I looked and looked across the waves
But them maids are better at hiding
Than be a tasseled woebegone!”

Joe smugly went on,
“Mermaids enjoy making sea-tulip arrangements,
Inside vase-sponges on the reef,
And once I saw one impersonate a mimic-octopus
To the cephalopod’s disbelief!
At night they pick up sleeping parrot fish
To do their multicolored makeup
And burst the fish’s nighttime bubble,
Then with a razor clam they shave
Their tails of tenacious algal stubble.

Once I saw a mermaid cut herself
And heard her dainty yelp,
Before she called over a nurse shark,
Who bandaged her with kelp!
A doctor fish was summoned
And a surgeon fish and needle fish too,
Between the three of them
They knew exactly what to do!

Another time I saw a mermaid
In need of pampering and tender care,
A file fish smoothed her scales
While an arrow crab clipped her nails
And a comb jelly parted her flowing hair.
All the while tiny cleaner shrimps and gobies
Polished her pearlescent teeth,
While a carpet shark laid out
At her fins across the reef!

A pencil urchin did her eyes
And feather duster worms powdered her cheeks
Turning them from pearl white
To a more colorful complexion
And while a sea fan kept her cool
Her loyal dogfish offered her affection.

Once I spotted a mermaid tea party
With more than twenty dolled up dames,
They had balloon fish decorations
And domino damsel games!
As for food, there were lovely lobsters
Of hues yellow, blue, and crimson red,
And there were sea cucumber sandwiches
With a butter hamlet spread!
There was also lemon shark pie,
And pudding wife wrasse for dessert,
Indeed, one maid ate so much of it,
She complained her stomach hurt!

And mermaids love adventure,
I saw one ride a seahorse
With horseshoe crabs to spare
To spot tiger sharks, lionfish, leopard seals
Or perchance a polar bear!
Accompanied by a sergeant major
And smoking a tobacco fish
Ready with a pistol shrimp and trigger fish
In case she needed to take a shot!
Joe, said I, as I puffed my pipe,
Disappointed I am not.

That is all that I imagined
Indeed, your fishy tales
Make my thoughts work even more,
And I cannot help but smile,
As we sit here by the shore.
Although the mysterious mermaid folk
I may never get to see
It’s fine to know that they are there
Living the good life of the sea,
Aye, though a lovely, wanton mermaid
I may never get to see
It’s fine to know that they be real
And living life so free.

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