Mermaid Dust

by Jean Brasseur

The smell of escape
snakes through words
overflowing the edge of the page.
“Follow the mermaids,” they said,
into a Jack the Ripper night.

Rain pelts the window
like a spray of bullets piercing the fog.
Ice tinkles in darkened shadows
and the reader stops to listen
to the rain gathering grief
and sending it down the glass
in tiny streams of indifference.

Was it the weather that imbued
this noiseless relief.
or perhaps it was the scotch?
This question wasted
on a passing windy cloud
before the floor lurched open
and mermaids in spangled
brassieres swam to life,
eyeing him hungrily.

He reached to their glimmering light,
his mouth a round cave
of awe and disbelief.
He had touched a manatee once
but there had been no whisper
of color, no odor of desire,
no reminder of the same loneliness
that followed him everywhere he traveled.

Before his hand pulled
him into the pool, the way out
vanished, leaving behind a trail
of twinkling scales on the polished wood
and armfuls
of empty space.