A Face of Beauty

Vanessa Raney

By most accounts the mermaid is
a vixen of the sea: long tail that stops
below her belly, the breasts free
or hidden by bikini tops, almost
always with long hair
and a face of beauty.

But if we were designed like that
how could we stand the water
so cold the further down we go?
How might we swim if caught
in objects of the sea, much less
outpace those fish with sharper teeth?
As for my face, it's what lures
the smaller fish for me to eat,
the colors changing with the plants.

We make the mermaid more like us
but keep her chaste since no man
could penetrate her tail, then we
pretend she wants to have two legs
since, already, she has the milk
of motherhood – but what use
are breasts to fish? We've seen,
too, the rise of mermen but
while they swim I haven't seen
them kiss or fuck, this to keep
the mermaid more pristine.
More rarely still are stories
of the men who learn too late
that her beauty hides a darker
truth: man-eating monster
with fangs to rip the flesh.

I am a creature of the sea
whose rhythms carry me to depths
you cannot reach but, even if
you find me one day near
you'll never know it's me, as
you only seek a mirror to yourself.

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