After Atlantis

by Lorraine Schein

The mermaid swims through the flooded city, 
glides between the empty windows of New York’s skyscrapers,
the Empire State’s spire skewered with sharks and octopi
while below fish flit through submerged subway cars.

She struggles over the flooded river to the sea,
dodging bobbing bottles, broken glass,  
beer rings caught on her tail, plastic bags clinging to her face,
and emerges to bask on a floating trash island.

The mermaid finds a pink acrylic comb to unsnarl her hair,
then dons some washed-up cheap sunglasses
to shield against the too-hot sun.                                

She thinks about going to a subsurface water world
like Miranda, Oberon, Pluto
or the exoplanets far beyond our galaxy. 
But mermaids are not eligible for the space program–
they get airsick and astronauts require legs. 

The mermaid dreams of young Earth,
its new oceans formed from gases of meteors and stars 
when the water was clearest crystalline,
an aquamarine mirror to endlessly dive through– 
down into tourmaline, turquoise, azure, lapis,
then stygian cerulean depths.

She remembers her time in Atlantis 
where no harsh sun or cold moon speared the dark
only the soft glow of neon blue plankton overhead 
like moire silk lapping on waves at sunset.
Ghostly anemone trembled below, as lantern fish headlights
swept across fronds of bright coral.

But tonight the stars look like styrofoam beads,
white shards that will never degrade in the sky.

© Copyright Lorraine Schein

Lorraine Schein is a New York writer. Her work has appeared in VICE, Terraform, Strange Horizons, Enchanted Conversation, NewMyths, and Eye to the Telescope, and in the anthologies Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana del Rey & Sylvia Plath and XVIII: Stories of Mischief & Mayhem. The Futurist’s Mistress, her poetry book, is available from Mayapple Press:

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