By ARIELLA REIDENBERG
After licking the sand
her face became turgid
tongue swelling it almost
exploded out of her mouth.
If that tongue could talk
it’d tell me, it tastes
so different without water
that living up here is so dry.
Even through the hailstorms.
Have you ever seen a tongue up close?
Red bumps in a pond of smaller, gray one
with a slime line right down the middle.
Hers doesn’t look like that anymore.
I can’t even find the line.
Brought here on the backs of plastic bags
she didn’t know
she would suffocate.
The idea that your own body can suffocate you
just the pure weight of it alone
makes me wonder what the whale song is really about
Ribcage crushed by tons of blubber
lungs deflating under salt-like hail
The tide recedes and she slobbers soundly
Calling to mermaids for help.
I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up
Not a scientist, like my mother.
Now look at me
following her in gritty footprints
to the bloated carcass
I bet it was once a Mom too.
Bobbing in and out of the horizon,
swims her family of three
Sea creatures communicate through song
as water carries a tune better than air.
Beneath the wet sand, her flippers sink in snug
but the two-leggeds mark her for dead.
And carve out her innards
What did they see that scared them so
much that they return to the sea?
See the remains of pelvic bone
floating around in there?
They had legs, once, just like us.
But tide pool bathtubs suited them better than porcelain.
My mother is shooing away the bad guys cutting off fins
kids playing on the blubber — like trampolines
She waves her knife and yells for everyone to get off
the ticking time bomb
I remember the video of the whale exploding after one cut.
Mommy is super careful with her knife.
The blade goes in, a hiss comes out
the first warning
Only a few hours of daylight to defuse the tension—
men arguing about who keeps the jaw bones
With the bickering, the hail, the balloon expanding
and my mother carving on top of it all
I look to the ocean and
wish again to be a mermaid.