3rd Prize: Jen Campbell

merlasses

Down the chippy they call w’sirens. Blazin like
red fire engines the lot of us. Rucksacked tails, brushin
along the backs of bus seats. Gannin to the waves.
Sometimes I swear I’m movin, but I ain’t. Me dad says
I’m well-fard, and it’s all a girl is good for.
Me tail’s bright purple, all the sequins yammerin.
There are four of us. We do it in divers’ pools -
they tret us right, there. Changin after swimmin class
so as I’m half in mesel. Half out - me mouth all pouts
and glass eyeballs. Swimmin yem.
The water’s goose flesh against wor plastic fins.


The lads pay to watch us. Caitlin’s pink and Tara’s
red-burn cheeks, canny near blowin. We play at drowin.
Plodge until wor lungs are blue. In stories we was
sailors’ dreams. Rock-slammin and them huntin for the zip.
Now we’re slot machines. Holdin wor breath.
To fit inside, we wrap wor legs tight-like with elastic bands.
Costumed. Show us it! they yell, banging fists.
I cannit breathe.
Me heart is pulsin, pulsin. The fish-scaled chlorine.
How much for it? They clout. Their five pounds notes against the glass.