Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Backyard Mermaid

The Backyard Mermaid slumps across the birdbath, tired of fighting birds for seeds and lard. She hates those fluffed-up feathery fish imitations, but her hatred of the cat goes fathoms deeper. That beast is always twining about her tail, looking to take a little nip of what it considers a giant fish. Its breath smells of possible friends. She collects every baseball or tennis ball that flies into her domain to throw at the creature, but it advances undeterred, even purring. To add further insult to injury it has a proper name, Furball, stamped on a silver tag on its collar. She didn't even know she had a name until one day she heard the human explaining to another one, "Oh that's just the backyard mermaid." Backyard Mermaid she murmured, as if in prayer. On days when there's no sprinkler to comb through her curls, no rain pouring in glorious torrents from the gutters, no dew in the grass for her to nuzzle with her nose, not even a mud puddle in the kiddie pool, she wonders how much longer she can bear this life. The front yard thud of the newspaper every morning. Singing songs to the unresponsive push mower in the garage. Wriggling under fence after fence to reach the house four down which has an aquarium in the back window. She wants to get lost in that sad glowing square of blue. Don't you?


Copyright © 2011 by Matthea Harvey. Poem and image used by permission of the author.

About this Poem

"As you can probably tell from this picture, I love my cat. Wednesday is 17 years old and is named for the rhyme, 'Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace, Wednesday's child is full of woe…' Well, she's a little black cat and I was in a bit of a goth phase. I haven't written many poems with cats in them, though I did end one with the hidden pun, 'We call the cat perturbed.' I'm bad at love poems—to humans or animals. So instead, here's a poem I wrote about a mermaid who hates cats, which is the exact opposite of how I feel about Miss Wednesday."
—Matthea Harvey


Matthea Harvey

Born in Germany in 1973, Matthea Harvey spent the first eight years of her life in Marnhull, England, before moving with her family to Milwaukee.

Date Published: 2011-01-01

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