Mermaid Song

- 1954-
         for Aya at fifteen

Damp-haired from the bath, you drape yourself 
upside down across the sofa, reading, 
one hand idly sunk into a bowl
of crackers, goldfish with smiles stamped on. 
I think they are growing gills, swimming 
up the sweet air to reach you. Small girl, 
my slim miracle, they multiply.
In the black hours when I lie sleepless, 
near drowning, dread-heavy, your face 
is the bright lure I look for, love's hook 
piercing me, hauling me cleanly up.

More by Kim Addonizio

Salmon

In this shallow creek
they flop and writhe forward as the dead 
float back toward them. Oh, I know

what I should say: fierce burning in the body 
as her eggs burst free, milky cloud 
of sperm as he quickens them. I should stand

on the bridge with my camera, 
frame the white froth of rapids where one 
arcs up for an instant in its final grace.

But I have to go down among 
the rocks the glacier left 
and squat at the edge of the water

where a stinking pile of them lies, 
where one crow balances and sinks 
its beak into a gelid eye.

I have to study the small holes 
gouged into their skin, their useless gills, 
their gowns of black flies. I can't

make them sing. I want to, 
but all they do is open 
their mouths a little wider

so the water pours in 
until I feel like I'm drowning. 
On the bridge the tour bus waits

and someone waves, and calls down 
It's time, and the current keeps lifting 
dirt from the bottom to cover the eggs.

"What Do Women Want?"

I want a red dress. 
I want it flimsy and cheap, 
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me. 
I want it sleeveless and backless, 
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store 
with all those keys glittering in the window, 
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old 
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, 
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. 
I want to walk like I'm the only 
woman on earth and I can have my pick. 
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me, 
to show you how little I care about you 
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body 
to carry me into this world, through 
the birth-cries and the love-cries too, 
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin, 
it'll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.

My Heart

That Mississippi chicken shack.
That initial-scarred tabletop,
that tiny little dance floor to the left of the band.
That kiosk at the mall selling caramels and kitsch.
That tollbooth with its white-plastic-gloved worker
handing you your change.
That phone booth with the receiver ripped out.
That dressing room in the fetish boutique,
those curtains and mirrors.
That funhouse, that horror, that soundtrack of screams.
That putti-filled heaven raining gilt from the ceiling.
That haven for truckers, that bottomless cup.
That biome. That wilderness preserve.
That landing strip with no runway lights
where you are aiming your plane,
imagining a voice in the tower,
imagining a tower.