Susanna Galbraith

'(said the water baby to the birch tree)' and 'Skull Song'

Susanna Galbraith

Share Via:


(said the water baby to the birch tree)

Here is the last song of water and

I think you’ll know by now that I am a mermaid 

woman of floods and oceans and pools

and this pool, my skin as bluegreygreen as my eyes

and yellow cracking in those small places

where I have lived the longest, as it cracks

in blooms around the brims of my gulping pupils


But I do not think you know how soft

my skin has been made by the water

at this late bathing hour (baby melts in the bath

and the shrinking plumpness of a baby hand

is like a shut-eyed plum sucking in its cheeks

and it is so so nearly time for bed)

that even the slightest barnacle brush

could rip the heart right out of me

cobweb my skin and leave my bones

to the slow ritual of sinking, dislocating

to become anonymous relics for indifferent fish

or the disseminating mutterings of sand.

We don’t even know what’s at the bottom.


I tell you how I live here now

blue as dreams and yellow scabbed

like remembered scraps of moon

from a bed drowning in an ending.

But I was not made for the water.

New gills open up above my breasts

below my hooking collarbone

like slow burns hissing the liquid threads

of a little voice that wept red into water

the quiet seep of afterbirth

warped by the bloodless weight of oceans

and dissolved like a swallowed star

winking dumb and fantastic into the womb

of an infant eye, the searing centre of time.


Skull Song

My particular pathology is discrete

Webbed among cells and annexed segmentations

Gunking the rungs and ridges

Of a coil-bundled brain of coiling Tongues

Aroused and asthmatic in a clot-cluster

Heaving hard against this sunken whalebone skull -

Somatic pinks boxed-up in blackness

Flush swells ballooned with bulging gulps

Of throbs that zing and shudder their veils  

And press life-muscled licks to the bone




Susanna Galbraith


Susanna Galbraith lives in Belfast. She is the Editorial Assistant at Abridgedgod on film is supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland through the Support for the Individual Artist Programme during 2017.

More poems by this author: