‘The Mermaid Aquarium’ by Cheryl Pearson

A month or two at most, I told myself;
a place to catch my breath.
The long, dry haul of my body’s bulk
along the shingle, up the beach,
the dragged slug of my tail
a mess of scrapes. A wake of salt and scale
all the way to the waterline.

I can’t complain; it’s easy cash.
I pose on moulded rocks, comb out my hair.
Ignore murky looks from girls
in wigs and slip-on fins. By night,

I lap the treated tank’s blue glow,
full darkness pressing at the glass.
By day, I bake and laze. Bat eyelashes
at the occasional stranger, raise
the quartered swell of new-glazed breasts
in shell cups.

Still, there are days I pray for rain,
crave again the taste
of true water.

Cheryl Pearson lives and writes in Manchester. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Envoi, Southword, The High Window, and The Interpreter’s House. She won the High Sheriff Cheshire Prize For Literature 2016 and placed third in Bare Fiction’s national competition in the same year. She has been nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her first full collection Oysterlight is available now from Pindrop Press and Amazon. Twitter @cherylpea