Wonderful poem by brilliant Wendy Pratt.
In her flat above the harbour
she picked crab shells clean
as bones, left taps to run,
opened her tail on corduroy
after her kids, cod-eyed and concertina
cartilage lipped, had fish-tailed off to school.
Out of her element, her bones scraped
under her scales and her skin hung
like bat wings. She was mummifying,
becoming a freak show mermaid,
a tiny dried out effigy; a mackerel tail,
a pin-bone rib cage, an oversized baby-skull head.
Nimble fish came in shoals, in flashes;
the sun spinning over in a bait ball.
They pushed suckered tongues through
paper skin to bleed the salty blue
of mermaid blood. They took the pain
of being dried out. And she swam
back and away over the harbour wall
back to her swimming dream-time, back
to the weightlessness like a water birth.
‘Mermaid’ was first published in Wendy’s pamphlet, Lapstrake (Flarestack Poets, 2015).
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