the merlion

By Kirtan Savith Kumar

in her hut by the sea, the weaver spins legends
tales centuries-old, wandering the remnants of time
as a deceased’s spirit would the half-world
clockwise, her head lolls, eyes shut, murmuring a prayer
and yet, even in her lucid state, her fingers tremor deftly,
intersecting blades of rattan to form baskets,
which she proceeds to chuck in a corner when done
she now starts on a new basket, fingers spinning,
mouth ever moving, yearning to form forgotten consonants,
dry tongue lashing at the sea.

she hears it then, the gentle breathings of the ocean,
azure heartbeats rippling across the calm
hidden beneath the glaze of saltwater, aged scales glide
wet fur, and a skin numb with centuries of exhaustion yearns to surface
despite her hoarse voice, her prayers are clear,
yet he fears, should he obey, remerge, and cast a gilded hue across
the sweet black waves, he shall be seen by the unwanted
deep in his heart, branded with the scars of man, he knows,
the moment he emerges, the orang laut, armed with fiercely woven nets shall attack
yet he’d rather drown than be taken hostage.

but for her he dares try, and so the last merlion begins singing
circling the ocean, tail whiplash, spiralling sapphire waves of a hurricane
blossoming in the distant abyss, he sings of a woman he once loved,
now condemned to live across the tides, his cries are temporal,
bitterly reminiscing, how angry the goddess of the reefs was
when she learnt of their forbidden romance, that she cursed an innocent merman
to be condemned to the body of a beast. he sings—
and suddenly her mind is clear, trance broken, she remembers.
the weaver races across the beach, sand splashing behind her,
utterly ignoring the warnings of fleeing fisherman,
as she dives headfirst into the sea, paddling frantically to her beloved,
converging finally in the eye of the storm, embracing a worn muzzle, woman and beast.

because even a goddess has mercy—and one day a year, when she feels like it, she grants the weaver sanity, such that she may reunite with the monster a curse could never stop from loving.


Kirtan Savith Kumar is a student of the Humanities Programme at Hwa Chong Institution, Singapore. With a passion for writing and research, Kirtan is an editor for Cathartic Literary Magazine, Thistle Topics. He enjoys watching Bollywood movies on rainy days, salt and vinegar chips and floral patterns.

Image: @von_co via Unsplash

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