Desirenade

Poetry Jul 15, 2020

by Emily Bowles


Desirenade


1.

This is desirening in a pandemic—an alarm goes off when you call.


2.

I answer a desire-for-aid’s call,
not knowing if it or I am the emergency.


3.


You are
alarmed by me,
armed against me,
disarmed by me
[you say, when it is me weakening].


4.

De-siren me to
make me less
a mermaid
make me less
a fantasy
make me less
a want, wanting
make me less-
en, a lesson, a lessening.
Faery tales are too morally didactic for me.


5.

Desirenaiding amidst this silent spring screams, full of underwater whimperings.


6.

Desiring
no
desirening
no
desirenaiding
no
one in need wants
this
not me.


7.


Mermaids demure-aids, demure aid
damage damn age done.


8.


No conchshells here to hear/hold my hollow echoing.


9.


Not a shipwreck ravaging, instead an unburied
fish, scales shining as it rots too close to the
edge of a river without silvery, sliverly shimmering.


10.


These are womanmade words, fleshfins floundering, and
this is a river town, where paper floats on fins, desirenaids
screeching schreechsinging on Saturdays at noon.


The poem is about the Fox River, about the same quarter mile of trail I’ve run over for more miles than I care to count, and about a gutted fish I saw—one I was fortunate enough not to step on. It’s also, in a way, about the knowledge I’ve gained over the past few years about sexual violence as both a volunteer for Harbor House and the Interim Title IX Coordinator at Lawrence—knowledge that has haunted me, humbled me, and reminded me that intersectional feminism is a cultural imperative. In my description of the sirens, I’m invoking the literal siren we all hear on Saturdays, along with a lack of faith in sirens engendered by police brutality, systemic racism, and a broad-based cultural acceptance that privilege and power do not need to be regulated (they do).


It’s also about mermaids.

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