Maladaptation

The Little Mermaid (final entry)

Joe Shetina
Dec 8, 2020 · 2 min read
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Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash, edited by the author

Who is she fooling? —
With her cheap extensions that hang
from her matted hair like seaweed,
and the algae-green tint
of her teeth
when she smiles at us.
She doesn’t understand
why they laugh at her when she tries to walk
as the other girls do.
Her hips don’t have the rhythm down,
and there’s more to it than practice can correct.
How could she know
that her legs simply didn’t fit her? —
They looked like
new accessories, two or three sizes too big,
that her body was rejecting.

Who is she fooling? —
Not herself, to be sure.
Lying on the brine,
beached and gasping for breath
like a fish burdened with air for the first time,
she clenches her fists
around piles of sand pebbles
and squeezes them
against the clammy skin of her fingers and palms.
Voices call from between the foamy ridges,
ebbing and tiding
as the currents do.
They are calling her home, their voices
tinny and distorted by the ages,
their language primordial,
speaking not to that part of herself
that can discern the words,
but the meanings.

If she could sprout fins and join them,
happily in the blue ever after,
the world
would have committed its first
and only act of kindness toward her.
But the world is not just,
and if she ever could summon the strength
to walk her two clumsy legs into the blue
with no promise of walking back out,
she would heed their call
without care for maladaptation.
In the water, bodies move with grace,
no matter their shape.
But the sand feels too good beneath her body
to leave now;
it buckles and makes a home for her there.
She’s no fool.
She knows that this,
like all pleasures,
is only a temporary reprieve.

Joe Shetina

Written by

They/he. Writer of fiction, screenplays, plays, reviews, essays, and poetry. Chicago. https://linktr.ee/jshetina

Scuzzbucket

Dirty realism, grunge lit, creative confessions, spec fic, and assorted literary atrocities.

Joe Shetina

Written by

They/he. Writer of fiction, screenplays, plays, reviews, essays, and poetry. Chicago. https://linktr.ee/jshetina

Scuzzbucket

Dirty realism, grunge lit, creative confessions, spec fic, and assorted literary atrocities.

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