My grandmother once told me she was a mermaid,
that she had given up her life in the water for love
on land, that if I told anyone, she would crumble
into coral dust, and the waves would pull her away.
At school, I accidentally told a friend. In the cafeteria,
I cried hysterically. Now that she owns
an aging body, I feel responsible for tending
to her softening bones, these legs she learned to walk on
ache at the fins of her ankles. I want
to mark her medications in her calendar and reach
for things on top shelves, watch
reality TV and gossip about the neighbors.
Skeptics claim mermaid sightings are manatees floating
near the surface. They say a manatee’s shape
resembles a woman’s, but this is only for the shadow
of the tail undulating beneath crystal waters.
I left her to live with a man on Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal.
I sit on the curb under a streetlight and watch the boys
on The Drive walk from bar to bar, sometimes
drunk, sometimes fingering the waistband
of another boy’s sequin shorts, sometimes
in the arms of whiskered, gray men who teach
their bodies opening to the past can be painful, and
whisper that sometimes leaving someone to find
a home looks like abandonment. But
the sea never leaves, instead it pulls away
just long enough for you to remember
its absence, to remind you that it’s in
your blood, to beg you to run toward it.
Andrew Hahn’s work has been featured in Crab Creek Review, Pithead Chapel, Rappahannock Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Yes, Poetry, among others. His chapbook God’s Boy is available from Sibling Rivalry Press.