Hans lied. Or he neglected to mention
that the prince had fallen for mermaids before
before he fell into the drink during a thunderstorm.
I had seen him ogling us from the shore,
the green scales of my sisters' plump breasts,
wondering what was underneath the wrapping.
And in the state museum, he passed his hand
over the worn, painted breasts of ship figureheads
under the guise of a history lesson.
Hans lied because this was a man
from the Odense slums
who fawned over Dickens
who wanted to be a Poet from the time he was young
who thought he would get invited to soirees and salons
if he wore silly clothes and spoke with a Danish accent.
Hans lied. He simply couldn't imagine
I would want to shed the blubbery tail
dragging behind me like a torn bridal gown,
that I would prefer to stand on my own two feet
and walk on my own, love or no love.
Hans lied. He didn't know the prince was just an excuse
for me to change my life, to stop being a sister, a daughter.
He was right about the knives; even masochistic Hans
knew it hurts to walk alone even when the walk is downhill,
even when you know where you are going.
But it would have hurt my pride even more to stay,
modeling for those wooden women who face into the gale
steered by princes and merchants and pirates.
Of course I have a soul.
The foam of heaven, you know, is not that different
from the foam seething at the water's edge.
About the Author: Debra Cash is a poet and arts critic based in Boston, Massachusetts. Her work regularly appears on public radio and in newspapers and magazines.This poem was inspired by Han's Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Little Mermaid."
Copyright © 2003 by Debra Cash. This poem may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.