Temptation in the Water by Joanne Key

Temptation in the Water

Human woman we have seen you, far out
on the rocks, pining for a distant shadow.

Come closer. Dip a toe in. Trust.
After all, we are no strangers to disaster.

We are born into shipwrecks
and listen to the constant moan of the deep.

We understand why the tide pulls back
from the shore. It’s the way of things.

Nothing more. But we have also seen
the black heart of water, how it scars

like falling rock. Yes, your fear of loss
is ages old and endless as the ocean,

but remember this – our world is tuned
to the sounds of downed planes and drownings,

the prayers of mourning mothers. We know
by heart the sorrowful shanty of the dead.

Human woman, we have seen ourselves in you.
You have the faraway look of the drifter,

the longing of the castaway, the curiosity
of the deep sea diver. It’s in your eyes.

You know danger, feel the heat and hunger,
the thirst. But let me tell you, there is madness

in a love that goes on forever. Rising from
that kind of depth can bring on the bends.

Learn to swirl a universe on your tongue,
taste this life and we will teach you how to filter

out the noise of human need, narrow the distance
between worlds. Come. Swim with us and let us

return you to a time before limbs, a time
of heartbeat and flotsam. Let us show you

how to dive into a slow goodbye, let everything
fade until only whalesong remains.


Joanne Key lives in Cheshire where she writes poetry and short fiction. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition and has previously been shortlisted for Poetry for Performance, The Bridport Prize, Mslexia Poetry Competition and The Plough Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared both on line and in print. Completely in love with poetry, she writes every day and her work is often inspired by elements of fairytale and folklore.

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