about the author

Melissa Newman-Evans has been the waitress and a regular reader at the Boston Poetry Slam since 2007. She was a member of the 2012 Boston Poetry Slam at the Cantab Lounge slam team, co-coach of the 2012 and 2013 Emerson College slam teams, and has headlined poetry shows around the northeast. Her work has been recently published in Muzzle and Side B Magazine. She likes her whiskey on the rocks and her lipstick red.

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Training Manual for the Juvenile Mermaid

Melissa Newman-Evans

It is best to get used to the taste of the anchor early. You may begin the practice with a finger, or some innocuous trash. Put it inside of your mouth and leave it there for as long as it takes to rust your lips red.

You must steal your first song wherever you can. It will take longer than you had ever imagined to attract a ship with it, and even then, the light shattered across the water’s surface may only give you wondering faces, your own cold blood swimming furious laps inside you, and nothing you can hold on to but anchors and their chains. Scream as it passes. Consider throwing yourself on the surf. Consider following an anchor, or finding a net to take you to them if they will not come to you. Do none of these.

When your mother is sleeping, trace the line of the scars on her face. Each one has a name that she will not tell you. One of them was your father’s. When some voice in the dark asks you if you want a name of your own, say no. When they ask you if you want legs, laugh. When they ask you to spit fishhook language and walk and want, remember your claws and teeth are more than are promised any human girl. Remember the field of the drowned sailors and your father, somewhere among them, floating bloated and blind and nameless at the bottom of your ocean.

He will come to you one night when you’ve all but given up. Overboard, like he thought he could fly. Let him touch you. Hold him in your arms like you have promised in. Let him grope at your hips like you would walk on dry land just for him. Let him call you darling and clutch at your hair. He will give you everything you have wanted. His drunken fervent whispers, his scream and prayer, his belief that you will spare him with a kiss. All belongs to you now.

You have thought for so long that the anchor was him, but it was you. It has been you all along. Take him under. Give him the drowning he wants. Suck the last of the breath from his lungs.

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