Mermaid Hair
by R.H. Slansky

Whatever sets it in motion, by the time
Daryl Hannah walks the sands of Liberty Island
Clad in nothing but strategically placed hair
The girl has a plan

She is practicing in the bath
eyes open, lying so still
under the water
she can no longer feel it
slow fingers waving without resistance, as if
through air, hair tickling as it floats
certain she could breathe in
if she tried, as close
to peace as she has ever felt

She is practicing in the pool
swimming with legs together, undulating
as if bound by scaled skin
belly brushing the bottom
as long as her lungs will allow

She is combing the tale
of the fish-girl for clues, walking
barefoot all summer
to toughen her soles
the girl knows what it is
to ache to be chosen
she will walk
on knives for that

She is refusing home cuts in the kitchen
to grow her mermaid hair
preparing for the day she dives
under the water and it closes
behind her for good,
these clumsy meat-sticks
forever cast off
an iridescent flashing shadow
disappearing from herself

At school, she watches the girl who shares her name
secretly from across the room. This Bizarro-world
bath-girl widens her enormous lagoon-blue eyes
As if to ask, what can I do, forking
her slender fingers yet again through her slippery locks
straight on through to the ends
without hitching up on a single tangle
strands of precious metal catching light
always moving, sliding into her wide-set fish’s eyes
mercury spilling down to her waist
a tide that never ebbs

Months pass, and as the girl’s hair
grows longer, her curls coil up
higher, into themselves
snarling sea-snakes that will not
hang straight

In the bath, in the pool, her hair relaxes
swirls around her like seaweed, like shelter
Her limbs stretch out, slim and strong but

On her feet, she’s a stumbling landlubber wobbling under
too much weight, hair rippling thickly from the root
like the Werewolf Boy, curling away from its true length,
stubborn blennies tucking deeper into
hiding, and reeking
of chlorine


PHOTO: The author near the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, approximately age 15, unwittingly posing as the The Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen.


R. H. Slansky
, a six-time 3-Day Novel Contest entrant, two-time short-lister, and 2013 winner, has been featured in the Silver Birch Press ME, IN FICTION and SAME NAME Series, Geist literary magazine,, and the Literary Press Group of Canada’s website All Lit Up. Vancouver-based Anvil Press released her novella, Moss-Haired Girl, the Confessions of a Circus Performer in 2015. Raised in Oregon, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.