The Way the Body Had to Travel / Emily Lake Hansen

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dancing girl press, 2014

 Emily Lake Hansen received an MFA from Georgia College & State University. Her work has previously appeared in Atticus Review and the Agnes Scott Writer's Festival Magazine and is forthcoming in The Fertile Source.

Postcards from Weeki Wachee I

When the lights dim and the show starts,
there are three of them in the water, these
half women/half acrobats/half Ariels swimming
in a tank like sea otters at the zoo. The one
at the center has a coral bikini top that's supposed
to look like little sea shells, and her tail, pinned
together with tiny hooks at the back, is deep blue,
like the color of an actual ocean. She swims
in circles around the other two ladies, fast
as she can with her legs pinned together. The top
half of her body twisting and twirling, the bottom
half doing half butterfly kicks, pretending that without
the fin, she is some sort of Olympian. The other two
tread water and communicate in hand signals,
gesturing along with the recorded story
that screeches on the loud speakers. They stop
frequently to huff in breaths from the machine.
But the twirling girl never seems to stop and grab
at the dangling oxygen mask, or if she does, she hides herself
behind the plastic sea rock. She must believe in the magic –
that while in the tank, her tail, fraying at the seams,
is a real part of her body, her waterproof blue eyeshadow
a real part of her face. It is only after she gets out
and the recording stops and the stage hand unfastens
the tail from her legs, that she breathes again,
believes she's human, sees the tank from above.