My sister is small, painting her arms
with washable tattoos when she tells me
a fish’s body is slick to the touch,
that some eat parasites, dead skin,
and dolphins are carnivores.
Do they eat mermaids, too?
I laugh because I know mermaids
taste like metal, with breasts hanging
full of oil spill, and stretchmarks
leaking from skin to scale.
Some are obese. Some sing
loud and ugly, drinking whale piss.
They know they can be eaten—
their blood thick, clotted—but they relish
that they are desired, suck
mucus from mollusk limbs, pick
their teeth with fine white fish bones.
Their tails do not glisten with studded
emerald scales. A mermaid’s tail chafes
in the salted current, slated black
with barnacles and bristling hairs.
They fuck sailors for money, howl
over coins in their caves, then collapse
with tarnished gold in their fists, imagining
how the men’s cocks will soon burn—like the fire
they’ve never seen—and fall off, raining into the sea.
I want to be a mermaid.
I want to be naked, devoured: let me
transform. People envy swans
for their necks, goddesses for their golden hair,
tight nipples. Give me the repulsive, the enraged—
sharp sides of rocks cutting feet on the shore.