The secret me is a boy.
He takes girlness off like a sealskin:
something that never sat right on his shoulders.
The secret me is broad-shouldered;
the sea can’t contain him,
the land can’t anchor his waves
to its sand.
The secret me swims
with the big fish, brash, he swaggers
like a mermaid, bares teeth
like daggers, barks at the moon when it’s thin.
He’s whiskered, that boy. Thick-skinned.
Quick-finned, always turning tail.
He wears his own skin like a sail,
lets it carry him to where
salt swallows mouthfuls of air.
Let them find me there by the shore:
the girl-seal with a secret
boy inside. Rough-voiced. Black-eyed.
as the beach by the tide.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2019. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2019 was Roseanne Watt.
Wain is a truly beautiful book, filled with gorgeous poems and illustrations that set an LGBT+ lens on the tales of Scottish folklore. I love the vitality such reimaginings bring to these old stories, allowing these voices a place to speak from within the bounds of tradition. This poem, ‘Selkie’, was particularly enchanting to me, not least because of my own enthusiasm for the creature in question. The skin becoming the site for the liberation of one’s identity is such a beautiful, powerful idea, and skillfully conveyed. Though aimed at teens, I’m sure readers of any age will find there is much to value in the pages of Wain.