Attempt to Explain How Dysphoria Feels Using Ripley’s Believe It or Not

At twelve, I was obsessed with Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Hoaxes,
chimera, they all ensnared me— concocted creatures crafted
so well, I believed the illusions. In those books, I found an escape
for years, dreaming about being inside the odditorium. It had been
shaped to look like a capsized museum. Inside displayed

as centerpiece, a mermaid: a fish and monkey
frozen within a glass jar, were stitched together
to seamlessly transition from flesh to fin.
My eyes would trace each scale. The hair bellowing
just below the navel. Under its neck, the gills sliced
like a slit. I imagined how it swam, undulating

the lower half, its tail thrashing against the current,
the wet, matted fur pulled downstream and swallowed by
the awaiting mouth, a fisher’s net. And once surfaced,
I could almost hear the gasps as it screeched.

But the longer I stared, limb by limb
I began to see how it broke apart.
Disjointed pieces, a gestalt
glued together to only appear
to be a whole

My body no longer

as if we could lay ourselves down at our own feet /
to mourn, as if we could shuck skin like a snake, slide away /
naked and new, some born-again eve.