Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Mermaid Fins

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She makes me hold her in a standing position until my arms and her legs give out. "Makes" is such a dirty word in parenting. Her core strength is lacking. I do twenty minutes of abs every day to hide my past pregnancy. She wants to run, but her kneecaps haven't developed. Yesterday, I ran two and a half miles away from her, and then back. There are times I genuinely understand the mouth noises that come from behind her tongue, deep-throated and intentional, like it was the only language ever spoken. I talk to her like she can distinguish consonants from vowels, English from French, happy from well-intended stress margins leaking from my corners. She eats the words off of paper pages; I read to her in animated sounds. Neurological memories don't serve us well after puberty. It's been 17 weeks and I wish it were longer. I need more time to study, before she gives up on me for other moms in the park, the ones with take-out pizza and perfect hair. Career moms and housewives, pining for her attention. Her grunts are four letter words. Trapeze tongue in farrowed movements speaking to me, asking me to grow stronger legs for her, to diffuse her thighs from touching, to throw her from the ocean and make her understand this new world. In time, I grunt. She wobbles. I worry about neck strength. How we never needed it in our water prisons. We needed mermaid fins. In the dark within our mothers.

Born and raised in Southern California, Erica Hoffmeister earned her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University’s dual degree program in 2015. She has work published or forthcoming in Mothers Always Write, FreezeRay, Rag Queen Periodical, So To Speak, Split Lip Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, and Shark Reef, among others. She was also a runner-up for the Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize in 2016, and received an honorable mention for the Lorian Hemingway Award for Short Fiction in 2014. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and daughter, Scout Séverine, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually misses home—wherever that feels like at the time.

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