Poetry by Linda Ferguson
Say a mermaid meets a man
who’s handsome, and drowning.
Say she swims him to shore and gets him breathing again,
and when Handsome opens his eyes,
she instantly grows a pair of legs,
helps him home,
helps him out of his sodden swimming trunks
enjoys his kisses and a soft bath scented with mint
so many things to like
on land with him—
the aroma of fresh toast coming from the kitchen,
restaurants, candles, a tablecloth,
she learns to pour pools of pale green olive oil
onto white plates and let pieces of warm bread soak it up
like a sea sponge—
so strange to sit, though, while eating—
what an effort not to undulate
her legs beneath the table—
and where are the tiny teacup-shaped barnacles,
the lacy bouquets of algae, the pale pink shrimp that once tiptoed
over her fins?
While he’s at the office, she goes to the track and finds she can’t
run as fast as she could (once) swim—
now she sits on the couch and reads help wanteds and realizes she must
a) learn how to drive
b) explore the depths of data entry
or c) serve ice cream.
Sometimes he feeds her strawberries from his garden—
how can he know
she longs for the slick, green taste
Sometimes she awakens in the airless night to find
his leg flung over her like an anchor from an iron ship.
As an underwater ballet
of minutes and hours wave by,
she stares at the ceiling and imagines him
sailing off on some new journey—
would her fins grow back
if his fingers got tangled
in another woman’s hair?
Sometimes a whisper of flame flickers in her heart—
if only it would ignite into a full-fledged conflagration—
as long as she doesn’t weep—
a single tear could turn his house
into a silent pond, and she, like a shimmering koi,
could end up circling just below its surface
for a hundred years
Linda Ferguson has won awards for her poetry and lyrical nonfiction and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for both fiction and poetry. Her poetry chapbook, Baila Conmigo, was published by Dancing Girl Press. As a writing teacher, she has a passion for helping students find their voice and explore new territory. Find her at bylindaferguson.blogspot.com.