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Down by the White River
Down by the White River, we watch mermaids lounge their mildewed bodies on couches
cast off, plaid, ripped, ripples of white stuffing barely clinging to rusted wires.
The mermaids sing but they are not their siren sisters; their voices grab a melody and then fall
flat. Someone says that it could be the pollution, batteries left on the banks of the White River,
the city roping off sections, telling children to be careful
But we adults, we gather and gawk at the mermaids, chart their changing skin, their stench,
their teeth hanging by small threads. We see how our White River, once white and always
called white, turns sewage gray and brown.
The current is small; the stolen bicycle, grass clippings, beer cans, cigarette ashes form an island
around the mermaids. One—the only one who bares any resemblance to her former self—
pulls out a love note from a bottle wedged between rock and plastic, ’ll grant you your wish, my
darling, she sings.
I see you edge away; was it the love note you wrote last spring to her when her eyes were clear,
her hair that fairytale yellow, and you believed that loving a magical being made you magical?
Where, where is he that desires me? She sings, Where, where is he? And those clear blues you
once praised? Slime clogged, and thankfully, she never saw you walk away.
Heather D. Frankland grew up in Muncie, Indiana. She holds an MFA and a MPH from New Mexico State University, and she received her BA from Knox College in Galesburg, IL. She was a Peace Corps and Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Peru and Panama. She has been published in Lingerpost, the New Purlieu Review, ROAR, Claudius Speaks, Sin Fronteras Press, and others. Heather has a deep- rooted passion for literature, advocacy, culture, feminism, and literature of place as well as displacement. She currently lives in Silver City, NM.