Portrait of a Sea Woman

The clam grew depraved in the dark
toe of a rubber boot,
draped in fashion seaweed.

I was a mermaid martyr
who lusted after those boots.
Then winter came.

The black pond froze
its black-eyed octopi,
and I formed my own stomach fat

into a gourmet doughnut. I could do
that now. I had a lead foot,
a merman’s cough, and a dump truck

full of sea salt. I crashed into a levee
as a bitter old starlet,
my fishtail stuffed into my mouth.

But every time I got close to the reset
button, it floated farther out to sea
on a raft of gasoline.

I had banked on returning
to childhood as a totaled car,
but they only wanted redheads.


Cover of TLR's "Big Blue Whale" issueDebora Kuan is the author of two poetry collections: XING and the forthcoming Lunch Portraits. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

“Portrait of a Sea Woman” originally appeared in Big Blue Whale (TLR, Summer 2016)