Space Needs Mers

by Fran Wilde

Space Needs Mers

You’re a curse-and-gather Mer, 
Pulling grocery bags from your ocean
And plastic chips from your tresses while you float.
Bathing in clam-packaged moonlight,
You cram garbage in nets, clearing your space,
As, wanting something better, you shout at the stars.

From below, petroleum compounds hide the stars 
And fatten the fish until the whole sea floats
And you are caught in the thick garbage moonlight 
And begin to dream of better space:
A planet governed by tides and moonlight,
A place for waterbound Mers.

Still earthbound, you protest at the edge of the ocean
While they laugh and call you a delicate Mer,
Say you can’t survive in their spaces.
They’re right, you must dive and float,
Ducking their garbage for a clear strip of moonlight 
Instead of dreaming below the stars. 

Lost, you wonder what will become of moonlight
Once there’s too much garbage floating, 
And that’s when you wonder if space needs Mers?
You already know how to navigate by stars
And though you would miss the ocean 
You suspect it might feel just like space —

Weightless and perfect for fins floating
As a garbage-bound planet recedes in space 
And you imagine yourself a zero-gravity Mer, 
Missing your deep ocean 
but delighted by dizzying stars, 
A bit worried by the too-large moon.

You apply to get your helmet, your astronaut-star. 
You launch away from tide-pull of moonlight, 
The first and best, an explorer Mer. 
And you rarely miss your ocean 
(or the garbage) as you fly across space,
Your hopes of water-worlds helping you float. 

Turns out, space does need Mers
Floating in the light of many moons 
Across an ocean of stars.

© Copyright Fran Wilde

Two-time Nebula Award-winner Fran Wilde has (so far) published seven books and over 50 short stories for adults, teens, and kids. Her stories have been finalists for six Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, three Hugo Awards, three Locus Awards, and a Lodestar. They include her Nebula- and Compton Crook-winning debut novel Updraft, and her Nebula-winning, Best of NPR 2019, debut Middle Grade novel Riverland. Her short stories appear in Asimov’s Science Fiction,, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Nature, Uncanny Magazine, and Jonathan Strahan’s 2020 Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy.

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