She wore a red dress

The Oracle gave me a story today. Not sure what it means, perhaps nothing at all. After days of migraines, worries and storms, perhaps it’s just a story.

Painting by Ruth Davidson Abrams, found in my gallery. The title is Woman with Shells, La Mer and La Mère. Couldn’t be more appropriate.

She wore a red dress

She wore a red dress,
hoping the men would look
as she waited on the quay
in the pale morning mist.

Three masts rose indistinct,
pennants hanging limp and grey,
but she heard the slap of the water
and believed it was there.

She would swim, if she had to,
as far as the rocks, and wait
for the storm to crack open the sky,
and for the mother herd to come.

Her shadow would fall, black as sorrow,
on the waves, her tears scatter
like sea foam, the tinkle of tossed diamonds,
and they would hear.

In her dream, she boards the ship,
swims to the rocks, and the sea is full
of the crying of gulls, waves,
and those who live beneath.

A thousand voices sing in greeting
in welcome, and she leaps, a salmon-leap,
into the water of living silver. The sun rises,
the mists dissolve, and she is home.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

30 thoughts on “She wore a red dress”

  1. I am not sure if I remember a Selkie wearing a red dress but it does feel like the story of one returning to her domain. Or someone Selkie-like or a rå or water goddess returning from a land-soujourn.

      1. Herd, colony or rookery t’internet says! We get them here at Hilbre Island and when they strand, in the old fashioned sense of that word, they conjure up a Siren Song that floats between the wind.

      2. Yes it is beautiful and timeless. you can either wander over and get back before the tide comes in or let the tide come in behind you. The tides can be tricky so you have to time a stranding there carefully.

      3. Like the sands of Dee? One of the things I miss most is northern shorelines. I can’t understand why people rave about the coast here, neither the Atlantic or the Med.

      4. Yes very similar to the Sands of Dee but down where she was the marsh is treacherous. It’s a folk legend that only a few people know the safe way to walk from Burton to Wales.

      5. Is it The Woman in White or The Moonstone that has a similar theme? Shifting sands are the British Isles equivalent to sharks or volcanic eruptions.

    1. That’s what I thought too. Selkies have to wear human clothes on land though, so why not red, like the Aran Island women?
      I just use the words and images I’m given. I like the result 🙂

  2. This is magical and I love that painting! I always picture Selkies as blue, but why not red? Home…it’s always calling.
    You had sea and I had earth, but it’s all the same, really. (K)

    1. You’re right, it is a lovely painting and red isn’t the most obvious of colours, but the Oracle knew that there are precedents.
      She could be a bird or a seal, the sweep of her dress could be flight or swimming.

  3. Oh, you’ve written a folktale, and it is magical. I saw you had posted early, but we went out this morning, so I had to wait to read yours till after I finished mine. Well worth the wait! 😊
    Like Kerfe, I picture blue for Selkies, but of course, they could wear red–and it fits the salmon leap and the rising sun. The painting is lovely and it makes me think of a sunrise or sunset.

    When I went back and rewrote mine, I felt the need to add ships–I already had written a fish leaping. And we have many of the same words–of course.

    1. The ship sailed into your poem too. I read yours earlier but didn’t have time to comment. All three of our poems are so similar in atmosphere and of course many of the images are the same. I love your dance from past to future.

      1. I can post the words, but I don’t think I’ll have time to write and post a poem today. Maybe I can use them in my musings tomorrow. 🙂

    1. I’m not exactly certain what it’s about. You know the Oracle, she’s ambiguous. I imagined a Selkie going home. I’m not sure whether Mermaids change their form, but I haven’t read many Mermaid stories!

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