An Interview with the Mermaid on Display at the National Aquarium

by B. Sharise Moore

On May 20, 2020, journalist Harley Lyons conducted an exclusive interview with a West African Mermaid (Jengu) at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. The transcript can be read below.

Q: For so long, you have remained an enigma. What secrets burn from your skin?

(She responds in a tongue as old as an odyssey.)

A: Everything begins with myth. Stories are an artery of imagination. A labyrinth. A tunnel of deeper tunnels still.

Q: Your hair mimics a tangled garden of coral. What spells conjure this masquerade?  

A: Camouflage is exquisite armor. A shield of shadow and cork-screwed anemone. I am more story than spell. More belief than not. 

Q: Explain your capture. Where were you found? What arms were strong enough to pull you from ocean to shore?

A: First, came a haunting wave off the coast of Cameroon. Then, my skin was a kaleidoscope shorn from sunshine. A chorus of rainbows caught in a net and sold to a freak show halfway across the world.

(Her dinner arrives: a kabob of charred words and seaweed smothered wishes. She says eating poems gives her hope and offers me a bite. I decline. She swallows it whole without chewing.)

Q: Humans have recreated a paradise for you inside these walls. How does it compare to your once and only ocean home?

A: Freedom snatched is like the loss of a limb. A rancid wound with no hope for healing. This man-made castle of reef and spiral is a mirage. A pretty cage is still a prison even when its bars are plastered with pearls.

As I leave this cruel exhibit, I scrap the interview in solidarity. Treasure our dialogue like the poems she eats for dinner. Hope she one day recovers her limbs. 

© Copyright B. Sharise Moore

B. Sharise Moore is a New Jersey native and graduate of Rutgers University. Moore’s poems and short stories have either appeared in or are forthcoming from several anthologies and journals such as Chosen Realities: Summer 2020, These Bewitching Bonds, and Fantasy Magazine.

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