Mermaid 4

by Ricki Mandeville

In your dream there is a playground
sweet with unintended harmonies
of children as they play.
You wake, the silent reveille of daylight
strummed across your lids,
and from your stomach, a strange music
like echoes chasing themselves
through some wild, hungry canyon.
The stiffness of your spine.
The dull jingle of yesterday’s coins in your pocket.
The flap of your pant leg as you step
into the windy street.

The sidewalks know the lost waltz
of your feet in someone else’s shoes
as you shuffle past store fronts,
the line of grime in the crease of your palm
like crib notes for hopelessness,
your arms, pale from living
in this pretend-forest of tall shadows,
craving the sting of sun.

You skin collects the day’s dirt,
whispers it back to you, dry
as the dusty hush that you imagine falls
across prairies you have never seen,
when thunderstorms are on the way.

Later, smog creeps cool through the alleys,
croons you to sleep with a faint lullaby
of rev and honk, the white creep
of tires on the boulevard
while you bruise your hip
against the filthy asphalt
and turn your shoulder to the world.

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