Mermaid by Nkateko Masinga

Estranged from my mother for loving a woman the wrong way,

my sister calls and asks How’s exile? Waterworks.

I am crying in bed and my lover is dabbing at my face with cotton.

Child of our cruel mother,

here is a non-exhaustive

list of what is wrong:

The hot-water-bottle

exploded between

our legs in bed last night.

We might just need

more blankets to survive

the Northern winter.

She’s late for work

again. I’ve bled

through the sheets

(There is no urgency to release the blood of non-pregnancy –

just a bloodbath in the morning light and no handcuffs)

On Tuesday it rained and she left our umbrella on the subway. She’ll drench the pillow with sweat from her fever tonight.

I conditioned my hair and we’ll both smell of argan oil all day. My sister sends a peach emoji followed by water droplets and I laugh through the tears.

She whispers Do you love her like you loved Jon? I whisper back I worship her. Exile is cold, wet and clean-up is a bitch but all hail the mattress protector and praise be to the waterbed we’ve made of this love. How great art the mass of fluid we made love in last night and every other. Tell Ma this mermaid love is so wet so cold so juicy and I shan’t return.

Nkateko Masinga is a South African poet and 2019 Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018 and her work has received support from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg and the Swiss Arts Council. Her written work has appeared in Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, U.S journal Illuminations, UK pamphlet press Pyramid Editions, the University of Edinburgh’s Dangerous Women Project, and elsewhere. She is the Contributing Interviewer for Poetry at Africa In Dialogue, an online interview magazine that archives creative and critical insights with Africa’s leading storytellers.

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