FROM THE CARE AND FEEDING OF MERMAIDS
You must begin with white, but it's a dirty sort of white. Like the sound left after birds have alighted from the beach in a rush of feathers and noise. Seaglass is nice, something small and heart shaped, tiny enough to fit in the box under the bed. Never mind the whining and weaving she'll do with anything she can find: fishing line, seaweed, the plastic rings from soda cans. It's all very picturesque and quaint. Soon, the body will open with the slightest prodding, the scales glimmering in the sun. You must begin with language, but a dirty sort of language. Get her used to cunt and fuck. Soon she'll say them without the whisper. Soon you'll pull them from her throat like a string of pearls. Picture a water color in a turbine. What it's like for her on the inside. Leaking seascapes and an impossible father. It is foolish to love that which has freed you. Or that which you save. We know this, and yet, again we turn off the radio. Excite at the heft, the slightest shimmer in the net.
At first she will be hungry. A midwestern sort of hungry that will set her gorging on pretzel rolls and footlong hotdogs. Emptying the refrigerator of ketchup packets and tiny pats of margarine. Do not panic. It will be a midwestern sort of wanting when she looks at you, her lips chapping around her straw, filled with cracked riverbeds and sycamore trees. She will move you neighborhood by neighborhood to get closer to the water. The apartments will have high ceilings and dark corners that ill never be clean. You'll no sooner have unpacked the toaster than she will swayed by refurbished french doors or a clawfoot tub. You'll get used to it, the way she wraps her new legs around yours in the bed. It will be comfortable, but a midwestern sort of comfortable, subject to wind and weather at all times.
Don't worry about the bathtub, the bits of scale and hair caught in the drain, a little more each day. Only a fool would weather the storm at the northernmost point. She'll still be good in bed. Adept at karoake and drinking mai tais from glasses shaped like cats and dragons. Can probably name every crustacean by blind touch, her fingers seeking out each grooved exoskeleton in the dark. Warning: The vapor of her breath against the mirror will make you anxious. The way she winces over the sashimi and cries in the shower. At night, she'll slip out to meet men in hotel bars downtown, sneak into the pool after hours, call you at 3am begging for a ride home. Do not acquiesce. Especially on nights when the fog settles low on the water. Especially when the stars above it line up like a million tiny fish.
A writer and visual artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of several book and chapbook projects, including brief history of girl as match and in the bird museum. She lives in Chicago, where she edits wicked alice and runs dancing girl press & studio, an indie press and design studio.