The Parasitic Twin – a Poem about Mermaids
Posted by E on March 3, 2015
Note on this poem: when I was a teenager, I belonged to an extremist group. By age 18 I turned against the group, gathered information on them, testified against its leaders and went underground because of threats to my life. In the meanwhile, another girl from the same white supremacist, neo-Nazi organization (who had done nothing to shut down the group) capitalized on speaking engagements, film and media opportunities. This poem is inspired by that situation.
On my knees for a thousand years at the bottom of the ocean,
I have finally began to reclaim myself – one fragment at a time:
innocence, loss, shame, guilt, anger, hate, redemption, LOVE
And now, a face takes shape within the mosaic
of a thousand pieces of shattered glass
My knees are bloody, glass is embedded in my barbed-wire hair
– my only gift from my Jewish father, who inherited the wire
and passed its thread of hate within my veins –
and yet (I don’t know how, or when, or even why)
I have begun to unspin the lies, at last;
I’m taking back my identity
Reclaiming what is rightfully mine:
The exploited, worthless little girl who was cast aside
In favour of the middle-class Canadian girl with the pretty pink bedspread
whose mother hand-sewn a mermaid costume and paid for university
(my mother left me in the numb hands of an unfeeling monster)
The “university student”, the “normal”, Christian girl loved by the media
who did absolutely nothing to stop the terror
– assaults, rapes, fire-bombings, stalking, wounding, destruction and more –
but who looked better on the news, precisely because
she was a “normal” child of the suburbs who had done nothing
except swim and lay with those who helped her get ahead,
The “normal”, middle-class girl who volunteered to impersonate
the girl with the scarred soul and the foreigner accent, who had nothing at all
and yet, the one who did everything.
The scared, scarred girl who ate from dumpsters, rummaged for scraps in garbage,
looked into the eyes of evil men and put them in prison, and yet
had no profiteers and managers to barter for favours, for media gigs
and so the other, “better”, new-and-improved version
– the parasitic twin –
Reaped all the benefits with none of the dangers
and the world continued just as before,
ignoring, as usual,
the exploitation of the weak, the unconnected and marginalized
by those who capitalize on the bravery of others,
while the scarred-faced, barefoot girl with no pink bedspreads, no mermaid tails
and no well-connected managers to groom her for the spotlight
who never got something for free
But I am still broken, a mosaic of a thousand fragments of shattered glass
glued flimsily back together, at a crossroads
where nothing matters, except
falling from a great height into the greenery of the ravine – to see
nothing but vastness, the blueness of above and below.
I hate the world I was born in, a world where the unworthy
thread on the broken backs of those considered worthless.
The little girl who always stood on the outer side of the window
has run out of matches. The fire has been extinguished.
The breath inside my mouth has turned to ice
And I have nothing to lose but the truth
In life, there are battles where you swallow your pride
and then there are those which – if you back down – can swallow your soul;
battles which, if not fought with all your strength and might,
will render you just as complicit as the conspirators of the initial injustice.
Years after the wreckage, I struggle to free myself from the boats and rudders
that weighed down my ribs and kept me at the bottom of the ocean.
I disentangle myself from the underwater reeds that had encircled my wrists,
spit out the dirty water that filled my lungs, swim up to the surface
and, peering at my reflection in a pearly cochlear shell, realize with wonder
that maybe I was the mermaid all along.