The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Angela Howe Decker’s “Splendid Catastrophe”

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From Angela Howe Decker’s chapbook, “Splendid Catastrophe”


It’s the end of the Weeki Watchee Waterpark
and the mermaids are packing their bags.

Tourists don’t visit,
the tank leaks,
it’s easier to wait tables.

The oldest mermaid is 54,
collects fish figurines and sells
pictures of her younger self: bikini top and a blue-sequined costume.

She says folks don’t understand how hard these women worked.
How they could hold their breath forever and a day.
There’s a thin hose to sip out air,
but they have to brush their hair, drink RC cola,
and dance like it’s all true,
like they really are sea nymphs and the soda is good.

Not everyone can be a mermaid, she says.
Some girls freak out,
think too long about the twenty feet of cold water above them,
the skinny air tube, the heavy tail.

She even panicked once in ’68.
A gator got into the tank, but
it swam right past her,
like she was a cousin or something.
There was a moment where she forgot the hose.
Would’ve died but for the audience,
blurry outlines of men, women, and their daughters
clapping hands, stomping feet.
She could feel the vibrations in the tank,
knew she couldn’t disappoint them.

That was her magic moment,
when she believed she was real too,
So she flipped her heavy tail,
waved to the crowd,
and kept smiling.

This selection comes from Angela Howe Decker’s chapbook Splendid Catastrophe, available from Finishing Line Press. Purchase your copy here!

Angela Howe Decker lives in Ashland, Oregon with her husband, two sons, and way too many pets. Her poems have appeared in African VoicesHip MamaThe Wisconsin ReviewComstock ReviewJefferson Monthly, and others. She teaches introduction to poetry writing at Southern Oregon University and writes an art & literature column for the local newspaper. Her work appears in the recent anthology, Knotted Bond: Oregon Poets Speak of Their Sisters. Her chapbook, Splendid Catastrophe was published this year by Finishing Line Press.

Leslie LaChance‘s poems have appeared in Quiddity, JMWW, the Best of the Net Anthology, Apple Valley Review, The Greensboro Review, Juked, The Birmingham Poetry Review, Slow Trains, Free Lunch, Chronogram, and Appalachian Journal. She also edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration. Her chapbook, How She Got That Way, appears in the quartet volume Mend & Hone from Toadlily Press.

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