Caitriona O'Reilly


II. The Mermaid (from The Sea Cabinet)

Between the imaginary iceberg and the skeletal whale
is the stuffed and mounted mermaid in her case,
the crudely-stitched seam between skin and scale

so unlike Herbert Draper’ s siren dreams, loose
on the swelling tide, part virgin and part harpy.
Her post-mortem hair and her terrible face

look more like P. T. Barnum’ s Freak of Feejee,
piscene and wordless, trapped in the net of a stare.
She has the head and shrivelled tits of a monkey,