To learn more about the selkies wild brothers and sisters - the halichoerus grypus or grey seal of the Eastern and Western Atlantic Ocean, click here
His eyes lit on the dusty oilskin in the fisher’s cottage
folded neatly, hidden, in the rafters.
Knowing what remained unseen
he dreaded the consequences, but still
drew the rough hemp rope binding the bundle
apart, knot by shaking knot.
His mother had always had a sadness round her
gazing out the small peat-darkened window,
whether the rains came or the sun shone,
her longing turned always to the wind-lashed sea.
His mother loved, deeply but absently,
for part of her dwelt
in worlds beyond ken
searching to find part of herself
no one else could see.
His hand drifted softly down to the pale, white fur of a pup
Shed for the first and last time, on the shores.
It was not a large skin, and he knew that his mother
caught in that moment, had not yet grown into herself.
Vulnerable, as all the pups were transitioning from shore to sea,
she would have been among the first in the colony to shed her skin
pure, whole, breathing light, as all the young seals were.
But unlike her wild brothers and sisters, his mother’s skin
would have shed whole, sliding from it like a wetsuit
as her land legs found her for the first time.
He thought then of his father, taciturn and brooding
staring at his mother with fear darkened eyes
as her body oriented, always north, toward the ocean’s roar.
A strange resentment he was born into,
that lingered in the corners like peat-smoke on stone.
His mother never seeing his father
his father seeing her
and nothing else.
He stroked the pelt softly, like a wounded broken thing
unsure whom he sought to comfort
her ghost-self or his. Sure only that the skin
cried out for touch after decades in darkness.
His mind wound back towards the beginning as he turned,
crawling to his mother, sleeping, with her arms
cradling her salt-stained face on the table.
He carried her grief even then, head tilted as he
looked with non-human eyes
at the one who gave him birth.
He thought of the father who stole the skin
as he turned further still, pelt in hand toward the kitchen
where she sat, still as dust suspended in a beam,
her cup of tea forgotten before her.
Questions in her round dark eyes.
“It is not love,” he told her brokenly “that made
him hide this in the rafters. It has always been fear
that in your skin you would not love him and stay.”
And, knowing he gazed upon her for the last time,
he fixed her love in his heart,
laid her skin at her feet,
and they wept together for the first time.