Plain China

Skin and Scale

by Caroline Klidonas · Elon University
Eye of the Tarpon, Dakota Richardson · New York University

My sister is small, painting her arms

with washable tattoos when she tells me

a fish’s body is slick to the touch,

that some eat parasites, dead skin,

and dolphins are carnivores.


Do they eat mermaids, too?


I laugh because I know mermaids

taste like metal, with breasts hanging

full of oil spill, and stretchmarks

leaking from skin to scale.

Some are obese. Some sing


loud and ugly, drinking whale piss.

They know they can be eaten—

their blood thick, clotted—but they relish

that they are desired, suck

mucus from mollusk limbs, pick


their teeth with fine white fish bones.

Their tails do not glisten with studded

emerald scales. A mermaid’s tail chafes

in the salted current, slated black

with barnacles and bristling hairs.


They fuck sailors for money, howl

over coins in their caves, then collapse

with tarnished gold in their fists, imagining

how the men’s cocks will soon burn—like the fire

they’ve never seen—and fall off, raining into the sea.


I want to be a mermaid.


I want to be naked, devoured: let me

transform. People envy swans

for their necks, goddesses for their golden hair,

tight nipples. Give me the repulsive, the enraged—

sharp sides of rocks cutting feet on the shore.

About the Author

Caroline Klidonas · Elon University

Recent graduate Caroline Klidonas currently lives in L.A. She is a writer, actor, and spoken word artist, as well as the founder of The Silhouettic, a spiritual and motivational blog. “Skin and Scale” originally appeared in Elon’s journal, Colonnades.

About the Artist

Dakota Richardson · New York University

Dakota Richardson is a writer, photographer, fisherman, and adventurer who attends NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Dakota finds his subjects on the road less traveled; the urge to explore is his greatest source of inspiration. He has lived everywhere from the Berkshire Mountains to downtown Manhattan, exploring different cultures and creative mediums along the way. His photograph first appeared in NYU’s journal, West 10th. See more of his work here.