Crustacean on Land

I am haunted by her neoprene

   suit, the swell

of undulations

   while the ocean kelps.


In New Mexico I balked

   at white sun,

my fleshy calves

  trembling when the


puppeteer said, It’s either me

             or the seven

seas. I crashed

like a breaking wave.


My dwarfed heart could not be

 trusted, and my mind

kept saying, No ultimatums—swim.

 Now when I am


washing dishes or tweezing

  brows or grading

essays, I can sense

 the wetsuit grip my flesh.


My shadow says, You were once

             wrapped in rubber

skin, collecting shells. Then I

 remember that pale gray


night the schemer lured

  me into a pueblo

in Santa Fe, and how my

 parched mouth craved water.


Beneath a dark New Mexican

 moon, my scorched

heart gave in, but my

 head knew that a woman


with a mind like a lobster

  thrives in coarse

saltwater. She could spill her

   coins on the beaches of


Santa Barbara, inhaling seaweed.

 But my runtish red ticker

chose land, and now

 the water-ghost clutches


my wrists with her claws.

    My heart has grown wider, I say,

but her eyes are black glass.

    She pulls at my skirt


with the zeal of an abandoned

   friend. Sometimes

she seems ready to pull me under.

Watch me swim, I tell her,


gasping for breath, she who wants

to neoprene me back,

who points at the tides

   & says, Drown that house.


Mehnaz Sahibzada

Mehnaz Sahibzada was born in Pakistan and raised in Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in various publications, including Ellery Queen, Pedestal Magazine, Jaggery, and Strange Horizons. Her poetry collection, My Gothic Romance, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. To learn more, visit her at

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