Sarah James – The Mermaid with the 12m Tail

The Mermaid with a 12m Tail 
Landlocked near Keele, a naked mermaid 
is perched on top of a white lorry trailer – 
the M6’s equivalent of a smooth wet rock. 
Passing too fast, I’ve no idea what she’s meant 
to advertise with her plastic pose, only  
the weird impression of a trailer as her tail. 
And the other trailers? Those creatures beached-up 
in shadowed laybys, their guts spilled open, 
like Jonah’s whale but no sign of the girls 
trafficked across borders, ports, oceans… 
Does it feel like hope, this land  
of petrol fumes, unpaid work and bartered flesh? 
The naked mannequin sits in silence on her lorry.

Sarah James is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Author of seven poetry titles, two novellas and a touring poetry-play, she has poetry featured in the Guardian, Financial Times, Bloodaxe anthologies and The Forward Book of Poetry 2016. She was Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015 and her recent titles How to Grow Matches(Against the Grain Press, 2018) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press, 2015) were both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Award. Her website is at

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