The Scales of Belief

by Danielle Nicole Byington Issue: Spring 2016

Mother always brushed my hair into a ponytail so it might not catch on her wire-mother frame when I left for the sea of hayfield. Strands of timothy-grass drifted on their stems, splashing against my body, their current popping the band of my hair so that the ends might fall closer to theirs, and we bled into one disheveled moment. The barn cat towed her kittens to me, and I sat eye-deep beneath the surface, singing to her fish pond of babies, seeing above, knowing below. The day had to be cleansed from my skin at night.  Mother came down the hall, clink clank, breaking in, your cat’s dead, exiting. The bathwater was cold, and my legs itched with scales. The next day, I floundered for the familiar. Only hay bales like beach rock remained, the sea level bitten into feed, groomed into confined, roped rectangles. I perched upon one, reaching to let the lamentation out of my ponytail, the rigid gathering crashing to the shore of my shoulders. Later, I was again submerged, rinsed of where I had been. Mother hasted tangles from my hair, and I asked if mermaids can really talk underwater. The brush stopped, they’re not real; flakes of iridescent tear drops shed when I walked to bed. Dreamless sleep fileted imagination, and I woke up in sheets scattered with my scales, unable to talk about it.

Danielle Nicole Byington

Danielle Nicole Byington’s work has previously appeared in journals such as Right Hand Pointing, Rust + Moth, and Jersey Devil Press.  She is an English-MA candidate at East Tennessee State University, and also Editor of the 2016-17 literary/arts magazine, The Mockingbird. Her academic interests focus on Middle English and Renaissance literature, as well as ekphrasis and aesthetics.  Danielle enjoys life with her Shakespearean better half and three ridiculous cats.