Poetry: The Misunderstood Merman


A couple months ago, I had mermen on the brain, so I ended up writing a poem about one!

It was partly inspired by something I came across on the internet in which someone suggested maybe mermaids didn’t mean to drown people (it turns out there is in fact a poem written by Yeats about this very thing). It was also partly inspired by numerous pieces of merman art I saw in which the mermen looked so curious and playful that I had this thought of, what if there was a merman who didn’t just forget that humans couldn’t breathe underwater, he never even understood in the first place?

And well, here is the result of that thought šŸ™‚

Humans were so interesting,
With their smooth tails split in two,
Their colorful bits and baubles,
Their noises so foreign and new.

He knew the humans liked him,
For when they saw him in the night,
They’d park their ships right on his rocks,
And all shout with delight.

Sometimes they’d even decide
To join him in the sea,
Gifting him with bubbles
That tingled and filled him with glee.

He’d twirl with them in the water,
Their fabric rough against his gills,
But he loved their charming oddities,
Their obsession with metals and frills.

The prettiest, liveliest ones,
He’d bring down to his caves
So they could be playmates forever
Under the ocean’s waves.

But now he looked around,
At the little place he called his own
Feeling confused, feeling weary,
Feeling very, very alone.

He must’ve been unlucky,
For every human that he’d found
Merely looked at him with glassy eyes
And didn’t make a sound.



Talk to me!

So what do you think about the merman---monster, or just misunderstood?


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26 thoughts on “Poetry: The Misunderstood Merman

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  1. Greg

    As you know I like a dark take on the mer, or at the very least the possibility of darkness. This fits the bill nicely! And the poor guy doesn’t even GET it. Nice little melancholy touch šŸ™‚

    I love the line about gifting him with bubbles

  2. Teenella

    Amazing. I love the idea of the merman’s innocence. Very nice poem. I’m a poet myself and I love poetry. The concept of the poem is intriguing. Great work!

  3. Lola

    That sure is an interesting perspective! And the poem is beautiful and sad and a tad disturbing as well. To imagine that lonely merman in a cave filled with corpses, because he doesn’t understand they can’t breathe underwater.

    I like mermaid books and how each author seems to have a slightly different point of view on them, in some they are very much the good guys and in others they are more monsters.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you! You read my mind! I almost mentioned something about how, before I even started, I knew I wanted the poem to end with that image of him in the cave full of corpses because it’s so awesomely morbid.

      I like seeing different takes on mers as well, and you’re right, sometimes they’re very human, other times they’re much more vicious!

  4. Jessica

    I have been reading the Anita Blake book series by Laurell K Hamiltion. The books are what I call vampire porn. Anyway, yesterday I was reading Danse Macabre and there was a vampire that had a mermaid as an animal to call. Well, actually she was a siren. She was a monster. She was pimping out her children to Anita. Anita refused of course.
    But I used to like the Disney movie The LIttle Mermaid.