Janice D. Soderling


The persona poem, whether lyric poetry or prose poem, is a paradox. It is a navel-gazing narrative about some one you don't know, but know all too well. It is telling the truth by lying. It is going to a masquerade disguised as yourself. It is an excellent disguise, no one ever guesses that it is really you.




The Little Mermaid Gets Real


I will do anything, I said, because I love you so.
Anything. No matter how it hurts. Prince smiled
fondly down at me groveling at the water's edge.
That's my girl he said. I answered I love you.
That sort of soppy stuff passed for conversation
back then, when my brain was water-logged and
my eyes blinded by visions of life on dry land,
Prince's landlocked country estate, his kingdom.
So I said of course, to everything he suggested
back then, to the many operations that would
make me a real woman.

The first little changes did not hurt at all. Nail
extensions (don't bite your nails, he warned, an
old habit of mine and a bad one, bad). Hair
grafting, botoxed lips. I could hardly believe it
was me. A doctor straightened my slanty eyes
and my big nose, and perked up my breasts with
a lot of silicon, extracted my jaw teeth and my
lower ribs, and finally, the most wonderful thing
of all (Prince was ecstatic), I did this major
operation that turned my finned tail into legs
which I could not only walk with, but also open.

I worried a little about that operation, not only
because it was said to be painful, not only
because my best friend Minnie said to thine own
self be true
and then stopped speaking to me,
but Prince had mentioned in passing that it was
my finned tail that attracted him to me in the
first place, kinky and exotic, he laughed, pulling
me closer, running his fingers up and down my
scales. It gave me such a hard-on, just seeing
how you needed me, girl
. Later he said Why,
when I met you, you couldn't even walk

When my highlighted, grafted hair tumbled
down over my bared, siliconed breasts, Prince
smiled and opened his hands. Alas, total
makeover was followed by total control. I'm
only telling you this for your own good
explained. Do you want to be a real woman or
He told me how to vote, how to hold my
wine glass, how to walk gracefully. I would
have walked better if my feet hadn't been hidden
by all that silicon, but I tottered along as best I
could, remembering to smile.

Prince stopped complaining and started going
on extended business trips. It was my happiest
time. I thought I had finally become a real
woman. I did not realize there is no fun in being
a controller when there is no resistance to
control. When Prince tucked his passport and
airline tickets in his inner pocket, or had to sleep
over in the city on weekends to straighten things
(a cryptic phrase I understood much later), I
stood at the upstairs window waving good-bye
to the back of his helmet.

I sometimes met my old friends at a waterfront
cafe. They would swim up close and we talked
and laughed like in the old days. They told me I
looked great and Minnie asked Was it worth it?
I said yes, oh, yes and Minnie said, with a
worried frown, but doesn't it hurt when you
I had to explain again, Only in spike
. And anyway, Minnie, what won't a real
woman do for love?
She would look insulted
then and study her waterproof watch, say it was
getting late and she had better be heading back.

I guess you have heard this ending before, it is
not exactly new. One day, Prince came home
from a trip abroad and told me he wanted a
divorce. He had rescued a defenseless maiden
from a fiery dragon and she needed him. I need
you more, Prince
, I cried. I love you. He looked
at me in a rather bored way and said, Not so I
notice. The castle is in my name by the way.
clung to his lapels and cried, But what did I do
And he replied, I knew you would say
that. You are so predictable, my dear.



435569-1589498-thumbnail.jpgJanice D. Soderling is an award-winning writer and translator whose credits include Acumen, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Event, Fiddlehead, Glimmer Train, Malahat Review, Other Poetry and Tipton Poetry Journal. Her work is represented in anthologies and can be read online at 42opus, Our Stories, Babel Fruit, The Chimaera, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Lucid Rhythms, Loch Raven Review, Right Hand Pointing and Umbrella. Forthcoming work at Anon, Blue Unicorn, Centrifugal Eye, Literary Mama, and Mezzo Cammin. Janice was born in the United States, but lives in Sweden.