Scrimshaw

Mary Donnelly

Everything is carved from bone
everywhere. Ships and shoes and
hardhats to mimic the skull.
At times we’re just a mermaid
struggling to stay afloat on
a wave of broken shelf.
What is all this anger
about? No one should have said
you’d get everything you want
in this world. And whoever did
was merely pulling your tail.
Hair knit tight with seaweed.
Joints lined in black like an old tattoo.
A smile to build an iceberg
upon and christen it.
In a movie about the sea, a woman
gives everything for love—her life
but first her dignity. Watching this
is like feeding a bleeding ulcer.
Watching this is like
Witnessing a mermaid drown.
Let’s get up, all of us, shall we,
on whatever limbs we were given.
Let’s wade into this teenaged year
of a young adult century
with our manes above the water line.
Let no viewers view us
as far as we’re concerned
for fear our salted lungs will flood
with our own body’s water.
We are our own worst bodies.
Our own best. We watch ourselves,
not in the seats of a damp
movie theater, but live and waving
ever so slightly offstage.

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Mary Donnelly’s poetry has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Hunger Mountain, The Iowa Review, Indiana Reiew, Prairie Schooner, and The Yale Review. She is an editor for DMQ Review and teaches through Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City, where she lives, and in the low-residenc MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Sierra Nevada College.

The Literary Review

Spring 2018

Madison, New Jersey

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Editor
Minna Zallman Proctor

Poetry Editors
Michael Morse
Craig Morgan Teicher

The Literary Review (TLR) publishes the best new fiction, poetry, and prose from a broad community of international writers and translators, both emerging and established, whose commonality is literary quality and urgency of voice and artistic conviction. It is this genuine community of readers, writers, and publishers that distinguishes us. Our editorial standard is to read with an open, discerning mind, and to publish carefully and vigorously. We connect our writers to readers.

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