Selkies by Emma Wells

Jul 17, 2023



Seductive seal skin is my coat –
for ease of removal;
I slip in and out of worlds
both human and mythical 
praying that one day 
my skin knots to backbone,
binds as spines to published pages 
completing the bleary badge
of a true, life-worn selkie:
for I am no myth, nor fairytale fancy. 

Man destroys, claiming all:
what is otherworldly 
must be owned, chained down,
fastened hard as anchored ships. 

I was captured on Kalsoy,

by a lascivious fisherman
who stripped me bare:
pleasurable peeling back of silken skin, 
then buried it under lock and key
within an old pirate’s chest. 

I bore babes, two. 
Skinless, like him. 


I felt the panting pain of my fur,
breathless in a torture tomb;
my selkie roots screaming for release,
growing bolder, louder by years of ennui. 
Without my seal skin,
I am grounded, landed. Tied. 
All too human. 
He knows this. Planned it so. 

One wintery night, 
I listen harder, pressing
ears to white-walled whispers;
I hear them echo my name:
“Selkie.” “Selkie.” “Selkie.” 

With my husband fishing 
and babes abed, I answer its siren. 

I find the chest,
hidden well in attic dust
amidst the clutter of man. 

Satin tendrils of seal skin
flutter to life at my nearness, 
rippling as silver waves –
awoken and eager to dress me 
in fur: my coat of honour,
reclaiming identity with the seas. 

It fits as a glove. 

I glide to shore,
forgetting legs, skirts, dishes,
for a watery world is to be mine, once more. 

I swim – freed …

In these waters, where I thrive,
fishermen are greatly cursed. 

Revenge tickles salient fur,
bubbling as a stirred cauldron, 
to deep water depths
where fishermen drown,
shackled to lost, watery prisons. 

Emma Wells

Emma Wells

Emma Wells is a mother and English teacher. She has poetry published with various literary journals and magazines. She enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories. Her debut novel, Shelley’s Sisterhood, is due to be published in 2023.

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