The Feejee Mermaid

August, 1842. She never lived separated.
Orangutan torso and fish tail cut in half and sewn together
to make one. The crowd saw only the ghosts
of her pendulous breasts; they dried
in the terrible manner of flesh.
For long hair, a baboon head became necessary.
The singular perfection of craft rendered her stitches
invisible. After months of hype—banners depicting
one lovely girl, head thrown back, bare-chested and white, rising from the blue sea—
Do you hate me? Am I horrible to you?
Barnum was fond of quoting, “the pleasure often is as great of being cheated
as to cheat” and the monster was, after all,

There is a renegade self-satisfaction in our collective:
it obeys unacknowledged cravings. In my lover’s bed,
there are times we can’t breathe for proximity, devotion heavy on our bodies,
weighing down the sheets, so that we kick them off to hang
unnoticed in the air. Where do we go to escape each other?
How to escape these enclosed nights for Hell’s everlasting bordello,
watch this comfortable fat sizzle from muscle and bone,
dance like a showgirl in bright, painted flames?

What have I done? I own a fraction of this body.
My head is strange, my appendages. Touching, I feel that I could be
this singular art, this negation, this vilification of my own sacred version.
I am alive, a stitched together woman,
the love you have searched for your whole life long.
Transformation comes and goes.
Not monkey, not fish: a perfect whole. For you, I broke apart the whole;
for you I suffer this heavy trunk of joy.

–Kristina Jean Kruse

My friend L at Virgin in the Volcano posted this amazing poem in response to my piece dated January 3, “Finding the Edge”. It is too good to keep hidden in the comments stack, and L was kind enough to let me post it here.

Kruse was one of L’s poetry classmates. Other than that, I have no other information about her work. But this feels unforgettable to me.