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Ariel, belle of the sea, drunk on a bar stool next to me. She grieves,
says she feels suckered, did not sprout the legs

she was promised. Her siren-red thatch clings head to shoulders
as she sobs, I am neither a woman, nor a fish. The gin, murky, her third,

gestures in her lily-knuckled grip. I think, What a dreamer. Who could help
but adore such a creature? I once read that the Danish novelist who imagined her

was celibate. When he died, his recovered journal said, MY BLOOD WANTS
LOVE. I pity big-eyed Ariel, now draped over the marble belly

of the bar; she is the candied contortion of his original lust. She looks up,
her tear-drops look too severe. They cut tracks, and when one starts

from her mouth I know it is blood. Stunned, I follow their ooze to a pool on the blue
rubber floor, 'round a pile of her salty insides. How had I not noticed her

missing lower half? All this time, a torso propped on the stool, snug
in its seashell brassiere. With each weeping heave, she has pumped from the place

where her waist was severed: a sludge of lungs, stomach, and parts
of her heart. The gin, too, must be mixed in. I recall

Hans Christian's full entry: MY BLOOD WANTS LOVE
AS MY HEART DOES. Like little Karen in his later fairytale, whose possessed

red shoes force her to dance forever, Ariel was misled.
She misread. Signed for a human soul, not legs.




KH van Berkum is a New England based poet and teacher whose poems have appeared in publications such as Curio Poetry, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Eunoia Review.  She is currently an MFA Candidate in Poetry and Teaching Fellow at Boston University.  She lives in Cambridge, where she can often be spotted dog-walking or spontaneously dancing.   
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