Magdalena the Mermaid

by Ana Merino

Translated by Toshiya Kamei

This poem was first published in Trafika Europe in July, 2020

Magdalena the Mermaid
was a good witch,
she had a white cat
with a fish’s tail
and an owl-lobster
who visited the coast
while the seaweeds slept.

Magdalena the Mermaid
in the sea was the queen
of seafood soups,
and her stocks and stews
were the best potion
she could offer
the poor sailors
who sank with their ships
and can’t go back
where they came from.

Magdalena cooked
recipes full of oblivion
to make the bottom of the sea
less like a prison.

Magdalena prepared
confits of joy
so that the sailors
could enjoy all day
the wet world.

The sailors sing:
their heaven is in the sea
because the sea witch
always cooks comfort
for the sad drowned men
who sank to the bottom.

The sailors sing:
don’t fear the wind
or the sinking ships
because the sea has a witch
who cooks hope
inside their minds.

© Copyright Ana Merino and Toshiya Kamei

Ana Merino is a Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Iowa, where she founded the MFA program in Spanish Creative Writing. She is the author of several collections of poetry, including Preparativos para un viaje (winner of the 1994 Premio Adonais), Juegos de niños (winner of the 2003 Premio Fray Luis de León), and most recently Los buenos propósitos (2015).

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons.

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