The Astronaut and the Mermaid by David Spicer

Redheaded Helen claimed she was a mermaid

in the tunneled waters off Spain’s coast,

bragged of hide-and-seek with scuba divers.

And I’m an astronaut moonlighting

as a fireman. I thought, now here’s a trickster,

a liar, a seaswan. We dawdled in the bar,

guessed Virgo and Pisces, renewed our

cynicism. She lit a green cigarillo,

I complimented her scarf design of turtles

riding bicycles. By the time the guitarist

strummed Hotel California,

we staggered from the bar to drift

toward the waxed hardwood floors

of her seaside house, were friends

who promised not to frustrate,

not to bristle with disgust, rubbing

the other the right way. We drifted

into dreams with a pipe’s help, and when

I awoke with a clear balloon around my

head and in an arson outfit,

I limped past a grandfather clock

toward an eight-foot-square aquarium.

Confused, I lurked for a moment and viewed

redheaded Helen, eyes closed, mermaid

tail flitting back and forth, back and forth.

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