No actual mermaids appear in this abstract painting, but it was the last wash of turquoise that made me think it might be the kind of place they’d like to swim. The other two colors are quinacridone magenta and ultramarine violet. The colors are liquid acrylics from Golden, and the black and white layers underneath are semi-gloss acrylic house paint. A couple coats of gloss varnish from now, she’ll be decorating the wall. 15 x 30 in., acrylic on canvas.
Dead men in the summer. The loss
comes seasonally, as periodic as tidal
motion, and the townspeople understand
the tide. But they cannot stop it.
Every year, their men hear mermaids
singing on waves that swallow whales and
anchors and things we have not discovered.
The song has not changed in millennia.
Its chorus tells a sensuous dream, a hook
baited with a brightly naked lure.
Fishermen and husbands in a trance
walk into the ocean. The moon offers
guidance, but they do not need it.
They know where promises are fulfilled
in melody, in scaly embraces and breasts
which float like gravity has no power.
Men do not know they drown.
They feed at nipples below the surface
without questioning their joy,
and then oblivion.
The next morning, wives and daughters cry
over empty spots at the breakfast table. Women
know nothing of what their men discover
when they venture into saltwater and never return.
Then shells and gold and gleaming
treasures line the beach as payment for
Summer, with your storms and madness,
your lightning cracks along the shore,
and no one can deny its burning.
This poem appears in the collection Inner Planets: 50 Poems by Matthew Howard. Available in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook.
A friend mailed us a copy of Penthouse Comix a couple years ago. It has a cool story by Richard Corben. It harkens back to classic horror tales by Berni Wrightson, and puts a new spin on the theme of eroticized underwater adventures. Kevin O’Neill also illustrates a disturbing story in this issue, and even Galactus makes an appearance.
Given the graphic sexual content of most of these stories, we leave them to your imagination, only presenting what we find to be a tasteful story of mermaids and mortality.
Collector’s Guide: From Penthouse Comix Vol 2 #14, August 1996.
Story & Art by Richard Corben