MERMAID

 

 

you traded coins out on the strand for

weekenders who imagined you were

a marvel of modern science

 

telling fortunes in a skill crane

you slaked the heartsick telling a story

tethered to a line along the breakwater slag

 

you sang the song of sea-swallows

painting the faces of dead lovers in oil

on the surface of spring harbor

 

in the autumn forest you were

nursing your baby in the river

a hunting party lighted upon you

 

shooting off buck-shot and coarse words

you placed your baby upon a rock

and turned into a brook horse

 

thundered up the steep bank and trampled

all save one into blood and broken bones

you bit into the fair youth’s chest

 

trotted back down to the river bank

with his heart held in your mouth

and fed it to your baby son.

 

your hooves splashed into the current,

fishing in the silt for fingertips and supple elbows,

speckled thighs flowing into a tail finely sewn

 

in the dream of seared rose petals and hot wax

with shimmering tendrils sprung from your mane

we had taken to huffing gasoline to break up the days.

 

i put vinyl sunglasses over your eyes and wrote

in sloppy cursive with lipstick on the lenses

reflected in my hand-maiden’s mirror.

 

i plied out one of your teeth

and went on a diet of limpets

plucked from bridge platforms

 

and the bones of the cellist

whose lungs i collapsed

to rid you of distraction.

 

with double-minded spite for wings

i found your doorstep sidewalk,

in the form of a gnat

 

i flew into your face to lick

a pearl of sweat from the channel

between your nose and coral lips.

 

your fingertips

smashed me and still

you clutch your purse.

 

one day the thin tissue of constraint

will burst like your eyes

when I drag you into the deep.

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