Size / / /

Once, I was a mermaid with other mermaids
decked out and parading down the boardwalk. 
My gown trailed me, a tail of cerulean, my 
cheeks the color the sky glistens when 
it strikes the ocean. 
Early that morning, the day the parade 
flooded the streets with sea wreckage 
and freaks, with connoisseurs, my 
lover finished painting on my face. 
His hat leaned sideways, 
parrot feathers brassy as beetle wings 
staining his hair. Two women dressed 
as crabs scuttled down the lane before us. 
My mouth blew bubbles, small tender 
ohs exploding. 
Seven moves later, three states: the gown 
still hangs in the folds of my closet. When 
I take it out, my soul, like some glass weight 
washed on the sand, shivers. A great breath 
of wind. Often, 
I see a dark fedora tumbling past me 
to break against the waves. Often, I see 
mermaids trailing riotous hair, their 
mouths unmoved by pity or the dark 
heart of the sea.

Publication of this poem was made possible by a donation from Lee Hallison. (Thanks, Lee!) To find out more about our funding model, or donate to the magazine, see the Support Us page.

Alicia Cole lives with a photographer and a bevy of animals. Over their house, egrets and great blue herons fly. She has a penchant for birding, blackberries, and walking through brambles. Her fantastical poetry may be found in Asimov's, Abyss & Apex, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Birdensnake, Demeter's Spicebox, Eternal Haunted Summer, and Futuredaze. A more complete bibliography is at The cup which is the subject of this poem resides in a museum in Tehran and is believed to be the first animation in the world.
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