The mermaids of the Po

Story sequence, 1991

The Po river reaches and mingles with ocean brine.

Above the surface, reeds and a few birds.

Below, alternating zones of muddy and clear

water and bits of debris settling ever so slowly.


Four canoes anchored off-shore throw their shadows.

Visibly disturbed, but without haste,

the mermaids come up to investigate.

In a small tent lay four boys, young athletes asleep.

By now it’s nighttime.

The mermaids lose their tails which drift to the riverbed.

Then they climb into the canoes and decide to paddle up the river.

They sing.

Light of the full moon.

In the first small town touched on, a dog stirs awake.

A cat. A child in bed nearby. They can just

barely make out voices singing.

Then they move to go and see.

Further on, in the left bank, a cello answers.

Perhaps it’s that old man

who spends each summer in the shack. And,

still further on,

a flute played by… by whom?… no-one


And yet another. On the right bank, violins…

The mirror of water sends sound-waves in all


Hours later, the mermaids reach the city.

Manned boats are slowly pulling away from

the shore.

The mermaids stop rowing.

The current leads them gently back to the

sea, other boats

and others still following at a distance.

It’s almost dawn.

The four boys stand on the waterfront and

watch far away,

then nearer the canoes and the young girls.

The song cuts off abruptly.

The faraway orchestra is still playing.

Four silent dives in the early morning halflight.

The canoes drift on their own toward the boys.

Now the first boats appear.

The sound comes alive in pink:

the Po river is awake.

A. M. – 1991