Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Neruda’s Mermaid

by Beate Sigriddaughter

—A companion piece to Pablo Neruda’s “Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks”
No, I am not a mermaid,
and I do have speech 
and clothes to cover me.
Other than that, I am
as lost as his mermaid
in a world of men too drunk
with competitive contempt 
to notice eyes the color 
of distant love. Easier by far 
to egg each other on
to blacken me with mockery 
and cigarette butts and 
whatever else is at hand.
And I know I must leave
through that door somehow 
and swim toward the 
emptiness that frightens me—
it is so vast—and swim toward 
death that frightens me—
it comes so soon. 
The emptiness frightens me
more—I wanted to make
something with my lovely 
white arms, but I need them 
for swimming away.


—Previously published in Rose & Thorn Journal (Spring 2013); appears here with poet’s permission

SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Beate Sigriddaughter

is poet laureate of Silver City, New Mexico (Land of Enchantment), USA. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and poetry awards. FutureCycle Press will publish her poetry collection Xanthippe and Her Friends in 2018, and Cervená Barva Press will publish her chapbook Dancing in Santa Fe and Other Poems in 2019.

Author’s website:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury