PVC Has No Face
But I am a mermaid, darling. You can tell by my tail. We used to swim in schools of dozens, hundreds, swarm around the snaky bends of the Cuyahoga with the minnows and the dropped feathers and the crumbled soil, running into stolid brown fingers outstretched in nets awaiting bass and turtles. We knew they were headed for the fires, but the poor dumb creatures never could learn our language, and besides, they were teeming, honey, simply teeming back then. Always getting in our way, you know. Soon (or late; time is nothing but overhead smudges and the pendulum of hot and cold to us), the only brown fingers we saw were those that had sunk, severed and bloated, to the river floor, and soon the old ones had to stretch to remember the bones whirling in their wake as they swam, young scales flashing.
The first time we saw it come into the waters was a dream. Nothing moves like that down here, hovers and hangs like the clouds we used to follow when we could still see through the liquid and up into the sky. Braver than most, I went to sniff and taste and in a second screamed with the burn until I could retreat to my mother who soothed my melting flesh and told me I might still be beautiful. To others, you know, frogs and such. I learned respect that day, and when I can glimpse them through the darkening waters and the occasional flames, I call to the pale shapes with their hoses and their tanks through a mouth half-dissolved into cream-colored resin, call to them with cheeks like the pipes they make out of gas in their blenders and melters and compounders. I tell them they have made me what I am. They must love me now.
And they do, they do! I am everywhere, you see. The rest of them, the foolish fearful ones, they swam for open waters, leaving me here with my new lovers when I refused to go. I look like what? Don’t believe everything you see. Here is where my eyes once were, these are the contours of my nose, my mouth, the bulges of breasts that once drove your kind to drink their deaths in the silty streams, seeking my embrace. If water ran around me once, now it runs through me as well.
NOTES: PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, was first made into a “useful” plastic in Akron, Ohio, USA, in 1926. Its manufacture produces dioxin, perhaps the most environmentally lethal man-made poison in widespread existence today. The dioxins are poured into, among other places, the Cuyahoga River which has been known to burst into flames periodically as a result of the various manufacturing by-products which are still being dumped into it despite decades of attempts to stop it.