Poems of the Week


by Ruth S. Baker

“It’s believed that Christopher Columbus—yes, that Columbus—mistook manatees for mermaids on one of his journeys to the Americas in 1493. Columbus was a bit taken aback, though, and told others that the mermaids were not as beautiful as they were said to be because ‘their faces had some masculine traits.’”

It’s thought that Columbus—yes that one—mistook
Two mammals we’d hardly confuse should we look;
A watery sleekness, a flash of a fin,
Would not, you’d imagine, take anyone in,
But let’s not forget that La Pinta & Co.
Had been on the ocean for months in a row,
With no one to look at but slovenly men;
And so, when strange swimmers appeared in his ken,
Columbus, misled by his hopes and environs,
Accepted the finny conundrums as sirens,
Though taken aback, or aghast, or astir,
On marking how mannish those manatees were.