Sunday, 9 August 2020


by Alice Campbell Romano

In the shower after sex I wash my hair,
so long and thick I could smother. 
Seaweed adrift on water. Mermaid hair.

Venus, on a scallop shell.
Zephyr blows. Venus’s red mane
strays, ripples down, shelters her sex.

Voyagers, lonely in arctic cold,
train wishful spyglasses
from sailing ships on fat brown sirens

that loll in bulges like Delacroix’s
Women of Algiers in Their Apartment,
but on carpets of blue ice.

An illusion. Sailors wield bludgeons, harvest
thick skins, blubber, ivory tusks, on which to etch
perfect tiny women over the long voyage home. 

A goddess in Assyria kills her mortal lover by mistake.
She wishes, for her punishment, to turn herself
into a fish, but when a lake god halts the mutation—

to spare her beautiful face, he says—
she manages only her bottom half and so she is left
impenetrable by fish or man.

The whole story is a myth, devised by a high priest
who conjured death, monstrosity, isolation,
to caution women against desire,

female desire, disrupter of social order.
In shower stream, I soap, rinse, condition.
Three thousand years women

have been warned off the pleasures
of their lower halves. Or maybe not.
Maybe tired women invented mermaids.

* * * * *

Alice has worked in film and TV in Italy, her native New York, and Los Angeles. Her first chapbook of poetry trembles on the brink of completion while she polishes the novel begun at Sarah Lawrence’s Writing Institute. Alice’s poetry and short stories have appeared in Atlantic Review (finalist in International Competition), Antiphon, Mudfish Review, Front Porch Review, Thema, among other on-line and print journals.  


  1. Fascinating. Gave me a guarded chuckle at the end.

    1. Thank you,Mathew. I wasn't sure about your comment on yesterday's poem, didn't know how to understand it I see you are a reader of this beautiful site. I'm so glad to be part of it.