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by Julie Larios

Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures

Listen to the waves
break on the shore—
half song, half roar.
Listen to the beach
answer back—
half cry, half laugh.
Underneath it all,
you might hear a splash,
you might hear a call,
or you might hear a sigh,
long and low.
What does she say,
part woman, part fish?

I wish…I wish…

Copyright © 2008 Julie LariosFrom the book Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures. Harcourt Children’s Books. Reprinted by permission of the author.

About this Poem

When I was young, my grandparents had a little cabin they built themselves, right out at the edge of the saltwater on Camano Island’s Elger Bay. I loved that place like no other place before or since—it was magical. There were logs and rocks all over the beach; my brother and sister and I built pretend houses out of them, and I would sit near the door of my pretend house and listen to the waves. They seemed to be saying something over and over, but what? Sometimes I imagined that it wasn’t the waves speaking, it was someone who lived under the waves: a mermaid. What was she trying to say? I listened to the shh-shh-shh-shhh sound of the small waves washing through the pebbles on the shore – and “I wish…I wish…” is what I thought I heard. I wrote this poem about that mermaid. But I didn’t ever figure out what she wished. Maybe she wished to be me, out on land, building my little log houses….

Suggestions for further activity:

Why not write a poem, or a story, about what you think the mermaid wished?

About The Author

Children's Author Julie LariosI taught for several years on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA Writing for Children program, but just this year I returned to writing full-time: Hooray! Creating poems and books for kids is so satisfying, and I’m proud of my four books of poetry: On the Stairs (illustrated by my sister, Mary Cornish), Have You Ever Done That? (illustrated by Anne Hunter), Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary (a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book), and Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures (both of those last two illustrated by Julie Paschkis.) I’ve contributed poems to many anthologies, most recently to The National Geographic Book of Poetry (edited by J. Patrick Lewis) and the Poetry Friday anthologies (edited by the completely wonderful team of Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.) I also write poetry for adults, and that work has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and been selected twice for The Best American Poetry series. Recently, I’ve been enjoying a more collaborative approach to poetry, writing the libretto for a pocket opera composed by Dag Gabrielson and performed by the New York City Opera for their Vox Series, and writing a poem set to music, choreographed, danced, filmed and chosen for screening at the International Screendance Festival. Poetry can go many direction!

I live in Seattle, Washington with my husband and a squawky, cranky cockatiel named Peaches, both of whom inspire poems. My kids are all grown up, but I’m hoping they’ll give me lots of grandkids to inspire even more poems!

Though I don’t maintain a website for kids, I do have my own blog for creative writers and teachers. It’s called The Drift Record because I like to drift around and find curious things to write about. I contribute to two other blogs about writing and the writing life: Books Around the Table, written collaboratively by fellow writers and illustrators, and Write at Your Own Risk, the unofficial blog of my brilliant, kind, hilarious colleagues in the Writing for Children and Young Adults program of the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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4 responses to “Mermaid”

  1. I love those half song, half roar waves. This is one of my favorites in this collection. Just beautiful, and longing, and wistful, and joyful…all at once.

  2. Kate Coombs says:

    Such a great poem! And I’m happy to say that I own the collection.

  3. NOah says:

    Such a great poem!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. HI-face says:

    It’s like the little mermaid… ONLY BETTER!

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