Winter drive into Vienna, filmed by Gamma. Text by me, read by Beta. Music: drums, bodhran, melodeon, theremin.
Tag Archives: mermaids
The crater of day, the mermaid said, a list of things forgotten. People I’ve seen wearing bandages. Child athletes as adults. Cars I’ve driven as a function of phases of the moon. People I’ve witnessed vomiting. The fish in the river are acting weird. They’re lining up like birds and singing, not like people, like cables in the wind.
Something about the way they grit their teeth.
The river banks are hardpacked clay. Practically only blackberries grow there and when it rains the layer of mud that forms is thin and slick. There are barns and trailers and beyond that a mall and houses. Once it was fields and it’ll be fields again.
The colors in your crayon box are brighter than the colors in your life. Pastel houses, white truck, grey carpet, brown paneling, cork floor. Blue jeans, t-shirt, blue jacket that you got on sale. Brown fridge in a brown kitchen. Even the produce section has gone dry and is a uniform red and green, red and green, maybe orange.
The fish running in the river are silver and making a silver sound. Nothing is golden, nothing is salmon, not even the salmon. A kid at school has over 100 crayons in his box. You thought a couple dozen was a lot, it’s more than you got last year. For you it’s a lot.
Even the peaches in the U-pick orchard are washed out in this light, brighter than seems good. It stuns your retinas even if you squint. When you’re used to darkness nine miles down that’s bound to happen. The fish tank burbling in your room is no comfort so far removed from your natural habitat, and plus the snails are taking over.
What is the difference between a refuge and a prison cell, a cage and a lifeboat, I wonder. The bathtub needs a little hot water. If a zookeeper chains you to the tub it’s a cage. If kids bicker outside the door it’s a refuge.
The tiles are a brown that somehow looks as faded as the somehow faded blue walls and tub.
(Some dream, thinks the mermaid.)
Traffic today was like an unmedicated insane asylum and someone was crying at work. Two old guys got in a fight at the store, about something. One was a customer one was boxing the customer’s groceries. He cried too, when the store manager sent him home.
Bath beads of a brownish-yellowish cast are arranged on the counter in an accidental pentagram, just out of reach. From whom were they a gift? What is their scent? Honey?
(The mermaid wonders about colony-collapse disorder, like so many phrases more beautiful than what it signifies. The mermaid tries to remember what she was doing before the dream, what she will do when she wakes. Watch coins of sunlight through the holes in a sunken pirate ship? Fly somewhere on a business trip?)
Why is it mermaids are always sitting on rocks combing their hair with those shells that look like combs, on sunny days? The water is calm and their tits are out but covered with hair. Hanging down from their heads, I mean. The hair. Long and usually blonde. Or they’re wearing bikini tops, sometimes made out of scallop shells, or they have scales to their armpits or their backs to us. But how often, really, is it sunny and calm? We, who go inside when it rains, aren’t we projecting? Wouldn’t mermaids come out to play in storms?
I can see them avoiding coast and shore in storms, due to the getting dashed on rocks and coral part. But in deeper water? A good storm in deep water sounds like fun for soemone who breathes air and water both and doesn’t get seasick. Surfing waves the size of skyscrapers, just watch out for floating logs and dinghies and other big debris, but otherwise?
After a big storm you’d want to sit on a rock combing your hair, for sure. Look at that world, the gentle swells, the glassy surface, the golden sunlight coins spent for you. You can’t only rejoice all the time, but neither can you grieve to the exclusion of all else. There is a time to tape your David Cassidy posters to the wall and a time to remove them and help your dad put up a new coat of paint. There is a time to listen to the very crust of the planet groan in a good storm, and a time to smell the ozone and tease sailors.
There are so many voices in my head, or maybe it is just one voice but it speaks in a variety of accents and frequencies, so many people inside there or one person pretending to be many different people, or having different moods, saying so many things and nonstop, projecting some inner storm on the calm, and calm on storm.
If I could, I’d learn to breathe water and be like a mermaid and feel the actual storm directly and be part of the calm.
The lighthousekeeper looked at her blankly. The cut on his head still hadn’t stopped bleeding entirely. “Four cherry tomatoes,” he said, “sit in a shallow Japanese dish on my kitchen table, practically motionless, at least while I’ve been here writing this. A pitcher one-third full of water likewise motionless, but for tiny ripples echoing my movements. My coffee cup, my laptop, and four walnuts.”
They sat there on a rock and combed their hair with their fingers, and felt the quiet, and recalled the storm, for a couple minutes.
There’s a mermaid in the river down by the chemical plant. They said she’s black and white but it’s the Sixties so who knows? I’m going there tomorrow with a lunch box of sardines and a baseball bat. There’s a spare tub in the basement where she can stay. If only she gets to know me I’m sure she’ll like me. Do you like salt water or is tap okay do you like sardines the smelt run isn’t for a couple months. I’ve got a ukulele we can sing all afternoon when I get home from school I know you like to sing it’s what everyone says. If you only get to know me, I’m sure you’ll like me.
Who knew that you could die of grief? It only made me quiet and unpopular. Who knew death was an option, down there in my twilight tub? Dead mermaids are so heavy limp and floppy. Should I feed her to the cats they’re scratching on the door like they want in. They said she’s black and white but that’s just the newsreel footage she’s as blue as you or I. If you’d only get to know me.