When they found her in The Galapagos Islands
to be precise) she was gaunt but
sitting in the shallow tide. Her torso
slid into a tail of silver scales. The rest of her
Sun-bleached hair surpassing the length
of her six foot frame –was braided
and looped over a stone pillar.
During capture, Someone had leashed
and tranquilized her, preparing
the specimen for shipment.
When the scientists approached
and tapped her pale shoulder,
there was a hollow chime, a lightness inside
as that in hollow teak or bisque. They were baffled.
An old man hunched in an overcoat
with his triangular beard and cravat askew,
trudged toward them. He spoke
wearily and whispered –
She is not a mermaid but an ancient
species of woman, half mammal, half serpent;
preserved and prevailing in fresh water
on the other side.
When hunters dragged her from the cascade
and drenched her veins with dope,
they forced out her breath, her will. I felt it rise
like an updraft into the clear sky.
Storm doves glided on its heat. Then it spilled
over the mountain in massive clouds
like ashen lava. Her venom.
The man turned and was about to leave
when one of the young biologists
asked his name. He straightened his back, echoing
in the most august voice – Charles, Charles.