Mermaid Who’d Lost Her Way


  I’ve been driving from the same office to the same house for thirty plus years and have always enjoyed the opportunity to unwind a bit and look forward to getting home.  I do though like variety and thus frequently change my route.

  It’s long enough (+/- ten miles) that many alternatives present themselves and by now I’ve tried most.  Attendant cerebrations are the typical jumble of present past and future unless I take one certain very short industrial stretch connecting two busy streets with windowless rusty buildings on either side.         

  I first got the sense of the place years ago when a vehicle slowed down in front of me, passenger door opened, woman jumped out, and car sped away before door was properly shut.  Suspicions aroused I began to notice the demeanor and countenance of the disheveled females standing there all alone.

  Yep, sometimes, there stands a prostitute with her hook in the water and I’m forced to review my narrow take on reality.  None of them have ever reminded me of Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman) or Xaviera Hollander (“The Happy Hooker”) or even Ashley Dupre (Eliot Spitzer). They’re unkempt, furtive, wary, and certainly don’t evince a high level of job satisfaction.  In all of these years I have never seen one smile.

  What could have happened to these poor souls?  They had to have been once sweet and innocent.  What terrible journey led them to solicit all manner of horror here, in a small town, not far from a bend in the river?   

 Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks

by Pablo Neruda

 All these fellows were there inside
when she entered utterly naked.
they had been drinking, and began to spit at her.
recently come from the river, she understood nothing.
she was a mermaid who had lost her way.
the taunts flowed over her glistening flesh.
obscenities drenched her golden breasts.
a stranger to tears, she did not weep.
a stranger to clothes, she did not dress.
the pocked her with cigarette ends and with burnt corks,
and rolled on the tavern floor in raucous laughter.
she did not speak since speech was unknown to her
her eyes were the colour of faraway love,
her arms were matching topazes.
her lips moved soundlessly in coral light,
and ultimately, she left by that door.
hardly had she entered the river than she was cleansed,
gleaming once more like a whitel stone in the rain;
and without a backward look, she swam once more,
swam toward nothingness, swam to her dying.

 Fabula de la Sirena Y los Borrachos

 Todos estos senores estaben dentro
cuandoella entro comletamente desnuda
ellos habian bebido y comenzaron a escupirla
ella no entendia nada reciensalia del rio
era una sirena que se habia extraviado
los insultos corrian sobre su carne lisa
la inmundicia cubrio sus pechos de oro
ella no sabial llorar pore so no llorba
no sabia vestirse pore so no se vestia
la tatuaron con cigarillos y con corchos quemados
y reian hasta caer al suelo de la taberna
ella no hablaba porque no sabia hablar
sus ojos eran color de amor distante
sus brazos construidos de topacios gemelos
sus labios se cortaron en la luz del coral
y de pronto salio por esa puerta
apenas entro al rio quedo limpia
relucio como una piedra Blanca en la lluvia
y sin mirar atras nado de Nuevo
nado hacia nunca mas hacio morir.

 *The image above is of a print from a series by Eric Avery.  An artist MD with a social conscience.  “His social content prints explore such issues as human rights abuses and social responses to disease, death, sexuality, and the body”.  Check out his stuff at His work can be found in the collections of (among others) The Fogg, The Library of Congress, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Boston Museum of Art.

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