She wanted to be a mermaid when she grew up.
But there are no swimming pools
in the Foote Homes
Black people can’t swim
her flaxen-haired teacher told her
which was better than the deluge of words
from her mother’s mouth
Girl, that’s just stupid! You dumb
just like your daddy!
And when she thought about it
Ariel’s hair was like a flame
too hot to really touch
and she had never seen a black mermaid
so she damned up her dreams
or even taking swimming lessons.
They sat stagnant,
muddied with mosquitoes and silt.
When she grew up she got a job
on a stage.
Her body rippled
like the waves in the water
she was now too frightened
Her hips swerved and turned
like a river around immovable
her bottom flopped effortlessly against the air
like a giant fin.
And when she wore her emerald
suit with the iridescent pasties,
sometimes she remembered
her flighty little girl dreams
then she dipped to the floor in an
and drowned herself in the music.
RaShell Smith-Spears is an associate professor at Jackson State University where she teaches literature and creative writing. Her creative works have been published in several journals and anthologies, including Short Story, Black Magnolias, A Lime Jewel: An Anthology for Haiti, and Mississippi Noir.