by Simone Fraser
I woke up this morning as a mermaid
Silver scales rubbing the scratchy university-issue bed sheets
It had happened before,
Slipping under water in familiar a chipped porcelain bath tub
Or the pool around the corner from my childhood home
I’d wait it out surrounded in bubbles or friendship
Marvel at the way I could glide through the water
Perfectly at home, chlorinated and content.
But Oxford isn’t made for people with tails.
It asks for satin dresses, not scales,
Summers spent in the Caribbean sunshine not on Bridlington beach
Shivering in the waves because there is nothing else to do
It asks you to surrender the idiosyncrasy of folklores
No-one here has heard of the river at the bottom of the road
They don’t feed the ducks here, silvered limbs dangling in the water,
They are at home in underground stations, and reality
I tend to keep my tail bound here
It slips out when I’m drunk
And I taste seawater on my lips along with the sharp A in bath,
And no-one quite understands why I still have it
Along with the words like nowt and summat tucked into the folds of my jeans
Most days I don’t even want to be a mermaid,
And I google surgeries and magical potions, as if Ursula will appear
But I’m not content to lose my voice – what else can remind me of my seas?
In a couple of months, I will return home
Dive head first into the ocean of the North
And remove the bindings, return to the waves of familiarity
But the deep is colder now, and I begin to shiver a few days in
Missing my legs, missing the land of Pret a Manger and people who think like me
And come January I will fold up my tail and leap head first
Onto land. Pack up my tail, words like betray pushed to the back of my head
And once again, I will exist, suspended, but smiling.