Mermaids / Robin Cedar


“And a mermaid is a fictional sex toy for horny sailors…
to be vulnerable and pretty, and not be able to walk.”
Iliza Shlesinger


She is made of peaches, old and ripe and also the new ones who haven’t gotten a chance to grow past the blossoms. She didn’t mean for this to happen. It’s funny how that works, the peaches turning to mush and then rotting away into new blossoms—and she never had a chance to be anything but this. The peach mermaid thinks about death and happiness, about the sweetness of her lover’s tongue when he bites into her. She hates how easily she can bruise, how delicately each mark appears on her body, the fuzz running up her stomach, her clavicle, fuzz on her cheeks until her lover strips peach skin away from her. He sucks her down to the pit. Only a hard-edged center that he leaves behind and so she plants in the ground and waits for the rest of her to grow back.


The mermaid is made of a selfie stick. People call her vain but all she wants to do is look for a new center of gravity. She tilts her head as she’s sprawled on the ground, dirt rustling against her cheek. It’s just as well that she would be discovered like this, open and longing for a distant sunrise to light up her cheekbones in a way that makes her look regal, like the mythological princess she once was before she was dragged out of her home. They laugh at her when she admits she likes the way she looks, as if that is something to hate her for. Her tail squeaks as she stretches it out, arches her back and clicks her eyes shut. Looking at her, it’s easy to forget she is a camera, always watching for that perfect shot, the one that will catch her smile.


She is half girl, half boombox—and she’s always bobbing to her own beat, stomping her hands against the counter to mimic footfalls. She keeps dancing as best she can, even when everyone else has gone home or are resting for a while on the other side of the room, propped up against the wall. She curls her arms, sways her stomach, whips her hair. The music swells inside her and she hears it long after the boombox is shut off. She just keeps moving even as only her speakers pulse with the beat. She’s good at keeping a beat. But she’s bad at staying still, even worse at letting other people rest. She grabs them and drags them and tries to make them dance with her, but they jerk their hands back.


The mermaid with a battery for a body is always electrified, like the deep sea eel. They shudder at her hooked jaw, the jagged teeth that spark when she smiles. If you hold her too long, you feel her cold weight. Feel the buzz when you touch her, the positive or the negative side. It’s easy to forget how important she is, hooking her up to someone else just to watch that movement. But after she’s emptied and thrown away, that’s when she remembers, distantly, as if through water, what it was like to be fathomless. To be wanted for her power, to be used for her power. Enough, she thinks. Enough, enough. But it will never be enough.


Robin Cedar’s work has appeared in Blue Mesa Review, Front Porch Journal, Crab Fat Magazine, Leveler, The Fem, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been nominated for the Best of the Net and selected for limited-run chapbook projects. She received her MFA in poetry from Oregon State University and served as poetry editor and social media manager to its lit mag, 45th Parallel. She is a reader for Lemon Star Magazine, a lit mag dedicated to underrepresented undergraduate writers. She teaches English Composition and writing in Corvallis, Oregon.

See more: @robin_cedar