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BALTIMORE MERMAID by Robin Knight

Sat at a bar in Fell’s Point, fidgeting my drink, minding my own
suffering. Someone takes the stool next to mine: I don’t look,
but when she orders “Curacao on the rocks”
her voice crushes the breath from my lungs,
it fills my body with a warm hush, like milk at bedtime.

I look up and she’s looking back. Eyes oyster grey, hair pale and smooth
as driftwood, chapped lips, blue with the first sip of her drink.
She knocks over my glass, orders another without asking,
leans in and whispers in my ear. What, I don’t remember: just the sound
of the ocean and a faint scent of crab.

Fishermen walking to the water wake me before dawn. The flashlight
flares through my eyelids, “It’s a bum. Leave him”. Cold and damp
from the rocks into to my bones, back cricked, sand on my tongue,
the stink of a gull rotting close by. My hand grips the empty
Curacao bottle like a limpet, a stray dog licks my fingers.