A Space for Writers of the World
And they said never trust a mermaid
until you take her swimming, until you
wet her face clean, until you slip her under
a microscope between two slides and pluck out
the sand grain molecules of pride from her pores,
like obstinate hairs inhabiting the chin; never
trust a mermaid until you have de-scaled her
to count her fleshly poundage, her excess, until
you have wrenched the metal from her molars
to intercept the radio signals traveling to her ear.
They said never trust the red bed of roses painted
over her lips, beware the under-soil of thorns
sharpening her canines, beware the fish hunger
broiling in her belly. They said never trust the rim
of black penciled around her curious eyes, or the
sparkle of pearlescence dappling her lids, beware
the sorcery in her reports, the lightning
churning her saliva into sweet butter. They warned
of locking eyes with a mermaid: beware the siren
song and charcoal dusted eyelashes batting stars
at your pupils. Beware the bruja underneath the
mask, wretched trickery sparkling blue.
Our exhibitions are for our own mapping.
We will conduct the palpitations of streamers, fingers,
we will beckon the trumpet parade and shooting stars,
we will glimmer the glossy bright of fuschia
and venerate our bodies’ deviations, every, all.
Let them not make of our oceans
a ruly inquisition: We have been hanged
for our excesses before. Let them adore us
or usher out. Tell them there is no paragon:
only a vast mirage suspended
over the wide and sundried sea.
Let them learn to bask in
the glory of our clean and blushless
cheek, our crooked pillow smiles, let them
love our before, before we portrait our
skin with the carapace of beetles. Let them
write symphonies to the sleep in our morning
eyes, crisp with the light of new-day
possibility. Let them tangle in the matted
nest of our wayward manes, and delight in
every wicked knot. Tell them the charcoal
dust on our lashes sharpens our night vision;
the tight clutch of sequins polishes our boom;
every fold of our thick bellies harbors
our most precious and golden secrets.
Let them see the soil in our teeth, and learn
to relish every small nick
from the pointedness of thorns,
pearly fangs shimmering,
O Mermaids, gorgeous selcouth monsters
of the briny deep,
let them marvel or perish:
we will not hang.
Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes is Queer, Feminist, mixed-race, second generation Colombian immigrant, writer, scholar, artist, and political activist. Her performance, creative writing, and photography have been seen or are forthcoming in places such as San Francisco’s SomArts, Galería de la Raza, the Mission Arts and Performance Project, the SICK Collective, Wilde, The Progressive, Yellow Medicine Review, Descant, Write Bloody’s We Will Be Shelter and others. She currently lives in Brooklyn.