At the Park One Day, My Six-Year-Old Asks Me If Mermaids Are Real
Can you blame me for saying yes? This week
a middle-aged man walked through the glass
doors of her elementary school and proceeded
to the boys’ bathroom. Outside, a girl gripped
the chains of the hard-spun tire swing in a move
the kids call flying grandma. Barrettes slid down
her hair, each long ribbon tied off into a tiny
morningstar. Boys in a dirtcloud dug at the planet.
A secretary heard the man’s obscenities grow
louder, walked toward the stalls. Have you ever
tried to balance on a dome of black elastic web?
I don’t know how they do it, untroubled engines
in cotton-candy tutus and superhero T-shirts, even
mermaid tails. The world is an ocean, that much
is true, and after, the custodian brought a bucket
of saltwater to clean away what the man had done.
She asks me if mermaids are real, squinting her
whole face as if she’s swallowed the sun, and I’m
so relieved I laugh of course, aren’t we overjoyed
that all he did this time was shit, all over the floor,
lonely, but alone. If you close your eyes, I say,
you can imagine it, right? For now, we’ll hide
in the abstract. The park sprinklers spin, shoot
a fizzy mist, opal droplets glinting like fish scales.
Kids running, swimming, holding their breath.
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