Mermaid by Rita Feinstein

That anguished winter I became a mermaid,
Titus Andronicus was so funny
we laughed until the atrocities
opened knife wounds in our diaphragms.

Trembling on the stumps of her wrists,
Lavinia spat clotted strawberries
while my thighs fused into an armored lap.
Pale pink meat, whole salty slabs of it,
wound down from heavy hips
on a soundwave of spine.

The lake had transformed me.
Those heaving nights in mid September,
I marinated in its deep green brine.
I teased my toe-tips along its bed
and the zebra mussels gasped for my blood.

You didn’t know where I’d gone.
I was heartstrong; I swam where I pleased
and floated deaf to the world,
ears underwater.

What had I done?
I’d drifted out of reach,
and when I finally heard you calling,
it was February and you didn’t know
what I’d become.

Couldn’t defend myself—only a red hole
where my tongue had been.

Let’s just sleep, you said, pulling me into bed,
but I felt myself tapering far past my own length
and fanning out into limpid green fins,
and you felt it too.

You smoothed my salt-curls, wonderstruck,
and I twined my tail through your ankles,
dragging you with me as I drowned.


Rita Feinstein recently received her MFA from Oregon State University. Her work has appeared in The Cossack Review, the Barrelhouse Blog, and Menacing Hedge, among other publications. She is currently querying a young adult science fiction novel. 

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