L'invention Collective by Kathleen Rooney
Today isn’t what you’d call a beach day, exactly, but then again that isn’t exactly a
mermaid. Belgium has a coast, Loulou the Pomeranian knows, because he has been there
with Georgette and the master, but almost no one thinks of it in association with sexiness.
This creature is a creation for that northerly shoreline: a siren in reverse, cold-not-alluring,
its seductiveness mucked up by the fact that the fish is stuck, stranded on the sand.
Everybody’s got to have some prurient interests. Everybody’s got to have a little bad taste:
blue eye shadow and fur coats, fishscales and skin. The head and fins and torso of a fish –
if fish have torsos? – merged with a woman’s hips and crotch and legs. It’s a mockery, yes,
but what’s it mocking? The collective invention, Loulou believes. The gills that don’t
breathe; it’s being killed by the air, the fish-eye going dead. But the genitals are there.
Loulou heard a misogynist visitor to Magritte’s studio say that the being was “a practical
man’s mermaid” because it is fuckable. If that’s the kind of human you are, Loulou thinks,
then maybe. The master called the painting “the answer to the problem of the sea.” Loulou
sees it as an inquiry into the problem of humanity. The sea is itself a solution, if only of
saline. Neither the master nor Loulou believes in the insolubility of anything.
KATHLEEN ROONEY is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. She is co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), and her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2017.