Skip to main content

Jo Bell - Urban Mermaid

Edited by Jody Porter

Urban Mermaid
by Jo Bell

Surfacing at 1am, she’s taken by surprise.
Last time she came this far inland
it was all hedge and larksong.

The factories have been and gone, their poisons
spent. The basin is a citied silence.
Leaking lock gates, lamplight drunks.

The lamplight drunk is not at all surprised.
He understands that she has lost her way.
He has faith in fairy tales.

They both lament the passing of lost loves.
She combs the condoms from her hair.
He sits on a bin and sings to her.

He slouches into sleep; she slips into the lock
but on the coping stones she leaves a shell
so he can hear the sea;

takes in return his can of Special Brew.
She holds it to her ear sometimes, and listens to
the roaring of the trains at platform 2.

Jo Bell is a poet, performer, playwright and promoter, and is the director of National Poetry Day. She also co-programmed Ledbury Poetry Festival 2011, and is an occasional broadcaster on Radio 4. She lives on a narrowboat and is the Poet Laureate of Canals. This poem features in the first Bang Said the Gun poetry anthology from Burning Eye press (

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter. Read more here.

Connect with Well Versed on Facebook and Twitter.


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 7,295
We need:£ 10,705
19 Days remaining
Donate today